The story

From Barnsley Author/ Historian Clent Coker

 

The Appalachian foothills North of Atlanta offer a harbor to a secluded treasure: the proud and stately ruins of a pre-civil war estate, blossoming silently like a rare flower as it is transformed into a restful retreat….The Barnsley Gardens Resort.
Barnsley Gardens has a past filled with love, loss, and legends.
A young Godfrey Barnsley sailed from his native England to Savannah, Georgia in 1824. His meager beginnings were short lived as he soon became one of the most affluent young business men of the city, creating a successful cotton/shipping trade. Within a few short years, he was recognized by ministers of trade the world over for establishing significant US/ Foreign trade relations, and served American Presidents as Vice-Consulate to European and South American nations.
In 1828 he took the beautiful Julia Scarborough of Savannah as his bride. By the early 1840’s Godfrey had amassed a huge fortune on the Savannah waterfront.
It was a time when the Southern Ports supplied the world with king cotton, vast estates bloomed, and the lure of newly evacuated Indian lands to the North led wealthy sea merchants to adventure into the unknown. While plagued by the dreadful heat and yellow fever of the low lands in the mid 19th Century, Godfrey transported his wife, family, and a fleet of servants into the cooler climate of the Georgia up country. Here he began purchasing large tracts of the old Cherokee Indian Lands and began to create a grand Estate and Gardens, a prominent oasis amidst the lovely mountains of Northwest Georgia that he named… “Woodlands“. Trees, plants, and shrubs, along with thousands of priceless collections from the four corners of the World were transported to Woodlands, the illustrious dream home he had long planned for his beloved Julia.
Shortly thereafter Julia became very ill, was returned to Savannah, and soon died of a lung ailment. Heartbroken over her premature death, Godfrey ceased construction of the estate, left his children under the care of his servants and traveled away for a time hoping to find some sort of solace. But after gaining little comfort from his travels, he eventually returned, only to discover that his unfinished “Woodlands” was a constant reminder of his happier days with Julia and the many dreams they had shared. He would later state that he seemed to feel the presence of his beloved Julia each time he roamed the Gardens of Woodlands. According to Godfrey, it was a short time later that Julia appeared to him in a dream, pleading with him to finish the estate. He immediately wrote to his overseer that construction would be resumed. Godfrey would spend years thereafter striving to complete Julia’s grand manor and gardens down to her every wish.
The huge “Italianate” style manor consisting of sixteen rooms, featured modern plumbing and many other intricate furnishings far ahead of its time. As the years passed the magnificent setting was considered a show case of the south with visitors coming from near and far to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands.
Later the Civil War leveled Godfrey Barnsley’s fortune, but the great house remained.
In 1864, during the invasion of Woodlands by General Sherman’s Union Troops, it was Godfrey’s tenacious, strong willed daughter Julia who rescued the estate from starvation…truly a strong womans’ story.
Godfrey Barnsley died in New Orleans in 1873. His body returned to the family burial plot at Woodlands. His North Georgia Estate would later become known as Barnsley Gardens.
At the turn of the twentieth Century, B.F.A. Saylor, a noted chemist and mineralogist from Pennsylvania, found his way to Barnsley Gardens and married the granddaughter Addie, thus opening a whole new chapter of Barnsley History.
In 1906, it was a tornado that did battle with Barnsley Manor, forcing the family to move into the outer wings.
During the 1930’s depression, two great grandsons, a prize fighter and his brother, struggled fiercely to keep the family empire out of the hands of greedy land tyrants of the day. Later, a disagreement over their birth rights would result in a very traumatic event….an event that would make world news.
Addie Saylor, the last of the family blood at Barnsley Gardens passed from the scene in 1942, when the entire estate was auctioned.
For the next 40 years it fell into disrepair, leaving its future in question. However, it seemed the Barnsley story was not ready to end. In the years to follow at least a portion of the Barnsley dream would experience a transcendent awakening to become known as….Barnsley Gardens Resort.
Now, once again, visitors from near and far travel to Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands to enjoy the unique resort, historic gardens, and museum….truly a historic treasure of ante-bellum America.
The Barnsley saga proves to be a southern epic…of strong women, poignant love, the civil war and even murder.
The Julia Company has published the book “Barnsley Gardens The Illustrious Dream” by Barnsley author/historian Clent Coker. This publication recounts many of the intriguing stories surrounding four generations of the colorful Barnsley’s at “Woodlands”.




Clent Coker
Barnsley Author/ Historian