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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Four Men were Keys to Construction: Jones, Williams, Jordan, and Wright

SOURCE: Four Men were Keys to Construction: Jones, Williams, Jordan, and Wright by William Rowe. Special Sesquicentennial Supplement, Ledger-Enquirer, April 30, 1978.


Builders are more than ordinary men and no city can achieve 150 years of growth without them. Four who came to shape Columbus with the force of their talents are Seaborn Jones, Charlie Frank Williams, George Gunby Jordan, and Raymond M. Wright.

Among their contributions are, respectively, the city's first industry, home-country club-military construction, civic-sports-nationally noted golf classic, and homes of distinction.

Earliest in time was Seaborn Jones, born Feb. 1, 1788, died March 18, 1864. A lawyer and planter from Milledgeville, he served as solicitor-general of the Ocmulgee Circuit from 1817-1818. Major (later Colonel) Jones was aide-de-camp to Governor George M. Troup and helped arrange a grand fete for the visit of French General Marquis de LaFayette in the early spring of 1825.

Jones was master of ceremonies at a famous banquet tendered to the old champion of liberty at Milledgeville. then Georgia's state capital, which historians hailed as perhaps the most brilliant in Georgia's social annals prior to the Civil War, and Jones won acclaim as the embodiment of grace.

Major Jones was sent in 1825 to investigate Indian affairs in the territory where Columbus would be founded in 1828.

Colonel Jones came to Columbus and founded the Jones and Jones law firm. In 1828 he established City Mills, the first industry in the new town. He was the first man to throw a dam across the Chattahoochee River to harness its energy, becoming the forerunner of others who built other dams making the city a hydroelectric center.

Jones soon afterward drew plans for a house he called El Dorado (land of beauty) that was completed in 1833, with 12 Doric columns on three sides, which in more recent years has become known as St. Elmo. Here the niece of Mrs. Jones, Augusta Jane Evans, wrote the novel "St. Elmo" which was published in 1866.

Jones and S. M. Ingersoll established a ferry across the river one mile below Columbus in 1831, according to John H. Martin's history record.

Columbus experienced a cholera scare in 1833 and it was Jones who sought a young doctor, John A. Urquhart, to come to the town's assistance.

Jones ran for Congress and was elected to the House of Representatives, serving in 1835-45-47. He is recorded as advising the city council in 1836 on action to legalize the issuance of bonds to construct the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He was active in legal cases and affairs of the Methodist General Conference.

It was on Sept. 12, 1839, that Seaborn Jones' only daughter, Mary Howard Jones, who had served as a flower girl at the LaFayette fete, married Henry L. Benning. This Columbus attorney became a Confederate general noted as "Old Rock," for whom Fort Benning was to be named.

Jones owned a fountainhead spring known as Leonard's Spring that was used in 1850 to establish an aqueduct bringing water through wooden pipes and hydrants for some three miles through Columbus.

It was Jones in 1850 who was chosen to welcome former President James K. Polk of Tennessee to Columbus on a March 15 visit.

The pioneer Columbus builder was considered one of the most distinguished members of the antebellum group of Georgia lawyers who practiced at the Columbus bar.

But for all his brilliance, Seaborn Jones had the human failing of thinking of his own affairs last and too late, for he died intestate without a will. He was buried at Columbus' Linwood Cemetery, in a plot near the grave of his son-in-law General Benning.

Charlie Frank Williams (December 20, 1891 – August 2, 1957) lives in memory as a man interested in every phase of community development. He had an eye for beauty and an uncanny sense of where things should go in the building of a powerful city, associates recall. He dedicated himself to making of his works things that could be enjoyed by the community.

The grandson of John T. Williams, a farmer and merchant who migrated from South Carolina to Alabama in 1833, he was the son of Warren Williams (Oct. 26, 1846-Dec. 30, 1927), for whom a Columbus apartment complex is named, and Cora Alethia Booker Williams.

Charlie Frank, born in Phenix City, Alabama, studied at Marion Military Institute in Alabama, at Alabama Polytechnic Institute - now Auburn University - and at Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He enlisted in the Army and served as an Infantry Lieutenant in 1917-18. He returned home in 1919 and went into the coal business in Phenix City, broadened it to include builders' supplies, then sold the coal interest to focus on lumber and construction materials. Active in Phenix City affairs, he served several years as president of the Phenix City school board.

In 1921 Williams married Loma La Delle Tefft of Phenix City and they had a daughter, Cora La Delle, now Mrs. Jacob L., Riley Jr. of Columbus. Mrs. Williams died in 1926.

Williams moved to Columbus in 1923 and established a woodworking plant that became, in January 1924, Williams Lumber Co.

On Feb. 7, 1928, he married Ethel George Chandler, daughter of William T. Chandler Jr. and Coralette Metcalf Chandler of Montgomery, Alabama. Their children are Ethel Chandler, now Mrs. Frank D. Foley Jr., Cathryn, now Mrs. Walter Kilgore, and Camille, now Mrs. Charles McKenzie Taylor of Atlanta.

Williams was a close business friend of another Columbus developer, W. C. Bradley, who died in 1947.

Williams was called the "Father" of the Columbus Country Club, for his service as president, and his fundraising efforts during its 1946-1950 expansion and the construction of its present main building.

As head of Williams Lumber, Williams Construction Co., and The Concrete Co., he built millions of dollars' worth of military construction at Fort Benning.

With the late Fred Wilson of Atlanta, he built Camellia Apartments at the entry to the military reservation, named for his favorite flower. The same team built the Traffic Circle Shopping Center in Columbus and Emory University Apartments in Atlanta.

Williams developed La Delle Apartments on 13th Street, Hilton Heights residential section, and a home near the corner of Hilton Avenue and Edgewood Road that was the beginning of the Clubview subdivision. With Muscogee Development Co., Williams built Mohina Woods homes.

It was Williams and associates who purchased gas properties from Georgia Power and organized the Gas Light Co. of Columbus, where he served as president.

Charlie Frank built a small Rock Park subdivision off Cherokee Avenue, he headed an effort that raised local funds for the construction of Warren Williams Homes, and he was a key figure in the building of St. Francis Hospital. He was a large contributor to the construction of the chapel of First Baptist Church, to which he belonged.

In the depression-era 1932, Williams built a country home at Uxau-hatche (Big Creek) with spacious recreation facilities and a huge stone swimming pool fed with cold spring water which flows into a fishing and boating lake. The Lake Huston property was sold to Tom Huston Peanut Co., now Tom's Foods Ltd. affiliated with General Mills.

A charter member of the Columbus Lions Club, and a former Rotarian, Williams remembered his birthplace and his mother when he made available an eight-acre wooded area in front of Phenix City's Cobb Memorial Hospital for use as a park in her memory.

Williams was a long-time friend and advisor to former Muscogee school superintendent William Henry Shaw in securing sites permitting desirable development of the county school system.

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