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Old News Stories
Old jail Cell Sold as Scrap, 1942

From The Chatsworth Times
October 15, 1942

The Old Calaboose–
It Almost Caused a Scrap–
Now it's Scrap to End a Scrap

by Sara Lawson McGinty

An old iron cell, weighing several thousand pounds, once the cause of a county-wide dispute over its authenticity as a historical relic, will soon be converted into ammunition to help put the Japs and Germans out of business. On this occasion, the second time the cell has been sold for scrap, not a single club woman or Murray County Lover of Old Landmarks is expected to protest.

But time was when the iron cage was a sore subject. The county was divided into two factions: the believes that the cell had once lodged John Howard Payne, composer of Home Sweet Home, and the doubters without a shred of sentiment for the big hunk of metal. The latter group saw no reason why the relic should not be cleared away from public property–until the former made things so hot the doubters shut up and let them have their way.

The barred iron cage, which will soon be on its way with other scrap collected from the county during the present intensive drive, was originally a part of the Murray county jail which was located at Spring Place in the 1880s when that town was county seat. The Spring Place jail, a wooden structure, burned, leaving the prison cell intact. When the town of Chatsworth was created, the iron cage was moved here to be used as a calaboose.

After Chatsworth became the county seat and the brick county jail was used for city prisoners, as well as county offenders, the cage was no longer needed. Many Chatsworth men and women today have memories of playing games in the old cage, which rested in the park by the railroad tracks.

In 1937 when Dr. C. C. Russell was mayor of Chatsworth and Roy Parrott was city marshal, a traveling junk dealer came along, saw the big piece of discarded metal and offered the two city officials $25 for it. Thinking it would be good riddance of unsightly rubbish, Dr. Russell took the matter up before City Council, recommending the sale. The council offered no objections so the mayor and marshal gave the junk man the go signal.

He was busily dismantling the cage when the U. D. C. Chapter and Women's Club heard what was happening and descended upon him, the mayor and other city officials.

To sell such a historic relic for junk was unthinkable, the women said. Didn't they know John Howard Payne had been imprisoned in that very cage? Some went so far as to venture an opinion that he wrote Home Sweet Home while sitting behind those iron bars.

"Some of the women told me they'd never vote for me again for anything if I sold that cage," Dr. Russell recalls.

Mayor Russell told the bewildered junk man the deal was off.

The dis-believers in the Payne story laughed to themselves, but stayed out of the way of the club women.

History says that Payne was in this section of North Georgia, that he was too friendly with the Indians at a time when they were causing trouble for white settlers here and soldiers had to be called in to stop their wholesale massacre on white families. Payne, suspected of sedition because he had been seen in the company of prominent Indians leaders, was arrested and held prisoner, until his identity and innocense were proved. However, records show the Payne adventure in Murray county occurred in 1835. The iron cage was not built until the 1880s. Col. C. N. King's father, John King, a blacksmith, built the cage at Spring Place. Col. H. H. Anderson says he recalls seeing Mr. King work on the cage and he thinks it was in 1882.

Further proof that the cage could not have existed when Payne was in the county is shown in records at the courthouse of Grand Jury presentments in 1847. At this time, twelve years after Payne was in the county, the Grand Jury was lamenting the fact that the inferior court had neglected to levy a tax for the purpose of building a jail.

But the club women, believing they were fighting to preserve a bona fide memorial of the county's early history, won their point. City council passed a resolution granting the cage, for consideration of one dollar, to the local U. D. C. Chapter and Chatsworth Women's club.

After the battle fury died down, the cause of it all was forgotten. For years the cage has gathered rust and a frame of weeks back of the Cohutta Banking company.

Now with the drive for scrap metal becoming a serious issue for every American, the Women's club has voted to sell their share in the relic for scrap. Members of the defunct U. S. C. Have been interviewed and all have consented without an argument to letting the cage go for the patriotic cause.

So, perhaps, after all, the fight of the well-meaning club women for a phony relic has served a good purpose. Certainly that has been no better time than the present to sell for scrap the cell John Howard Payne might have written Home Sweet Home in–if he had happened this way forty-five years later than he did.

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