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Wholesale Observations: Macon, Ga.
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

Macon, Georgia, sits in the geographic center of Georgia, on the Ocmulgee river. It is also the biggest city straddling the line between the coastal plain and the uplands mountains. It has thus long been a trading center, and an important commercial center, both for modern times and colonial times.

Macon is home to a number of important places, and is often considered the “musical center” of Georgia, being home to Capricorn Records, a major musical recording label, perhaps most famous for recording the Allman Brothers.

Macon is also home to the historic Hay House, Mercer University, and Wesleyan College, the first U.S. college chartered specifically to grant degrees to women, from which my wife graduated in 1992.

I first became acquainted with Macon, and Wesleyan college, when my high school girlfriend was nominated to attend the “Governor’s Honors” program there in the summer of my senior year. This was a very prestigious program, offered only to a select group of rising seniors across the state, in a variety of academic disciplines. It was intended to introduce them to college-level courses, but on a short semester basis.

She was thrilled to get the honor, and a high school teacher took her up and back, two months apart, as her parents were unable to do so. We wrote often, that summer, before email was even dreamt of, and she kept me abreast of her classes and events.

I was equally thrilled for her, even though it meant we spent the summer apart.

I did manage one Saturday trip up to see her.

My dad let me use his old Ford station wagon, a huge green boat, which had none of the modern amenities like A/C, power steering or power brakes, and maybe got 12 miles per gallon. It was something like three hours up and three hours back on U.S. 80 (before I-16 was built), so it was a long day for me. But I was glad to have the opportunity to do it.

I had never driven myself out of town before. I have made that trip many times since. The girl I later married went there for her college years, and I became a frequent visitor then. We have many good memories of that place.

Wesleyan College was originally in downtown Macon; but after a fire destroyed the original Conservatory Building, the Trustees elected to buy a large tract of land on the west side of town and build a new campus there. It was considered to be “in the country,” back then, it was so far west of downtown.

Much like what happened in Savannah, with Armstrong State College (later University, now a part of GA Southern), and also St. Joseph’s Hospital, both of which eventually relocated to southside Savanah after long stints downtown.

People at the time may have wondered, “Why did they do that?” But as events unfolded over time, it proved the correct move.

Now West Macon is so grown up it is almost unrecognizable to the old-timers. Just as the population growth in Savannah has moved unbelievably far from the downtown area. Both Savannah institutions – and Wesleyan College – made the wise choice to buy more land than they needed at the time, so that they had more room for growth when that time came.

More coming! Stay tuned.

Rafe Semmes is a proud graduate of the “Original” Savannah High School on Washington Avenue, and UGA. He writes on a variety of topics, and may be reached at

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