Take a step back in time …
Rich in tradition and colorful characters, the city offers plenty to do for history buffs. McDonough began as a commercial center for wagon trains, stagecoaches and eventually the railroad.
Native American Heritage
McDonough was originally inhabited by the Creek Indian Nation which ceded the land to the state in the early 1800’s. As the ‘Mother of Counties’, Henry County once included all or parts of Newton, Dekalb, Fulton, Butts, Spalding, Clayton, Rockdale and Fayette counties.
According to Wikipedia, it was named for naval officer Commodore Thomas MacDonough and founded in 1823 around a traditional town square design. The county courthouse and historic jail building are on the north side near the Welcome Center in a historically maintained Standard Oil service station 1920 prototype.
The town was a relay station on the New York to New Orleans stagecoach line and was connected by other stage lines with Fayetteville and Decatur, and with Macon by way of Jackson.
After the Civil War and arrival of the railroad, McDonough began a new era of growth and prosperity and became an important cotton market.
In 1900, a washout during a thunderstorm caused a train wreck about 1½ miles (2.4 km) north of town. The runoff undermined about 100 feet of the Southern Railway (Macon division) prior the accident, and the passenger train subsequently caught fire, killing 35.
Our Famous Courthouse
As the county seat for Henry County, the centerpiece of downtown McDonough is the Romanesque-style courthouse, built in 1897 by J. W. Golucke & Stewart Architects. Golucke was Georgia’s most prolific architect of county courthouses, building 27 in Georgia. Most notable are the Dekalb County, Putnam County and Coweta County courthouses. Golucke also designed a number of other government buildings and jails including the nearby Locust Grove Institute.
Full of Traditions
These days, McDonough is still a place of old-fashioned charm and a relaxed pace, where the shopkeepers are friendly and folks still gather on the courthouse square.
Whether your interests lie in the antebellum South, ghost legends, or small-town Main Streets, there is a lot of history to explore in McDonough. Walk in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers and early pioneers. Dine amidst the legends and explore the city’s ‘spirits’.
Take a Historical Tour
The following is a suggested itinerary for a full day in and around historic McDonough.
- Start your morning with a short drive west of McDonough to Nash Farm, a Henry County park and historic site. Nash Farm was the scene of considerable Civil War military activity, including Kilpatrick’s Raid, infantry battles/skirmishes that marked the end of the Atlanta Campaign, as well as the campsites belonging to Confederate General Stephen Dill Lee’s Army Corps. Take yourself back to 1864 and the battles that took place at Nash Farm during regularly scheduled reenactments and special events. (Find out more)
Guided tours are available and a history museum is scheduled to open soon.
- Next, head back to McDonough for lunch at PJ’s Cafe. The dining room overlooks McDonough’s bustling square and is decorated with an expansive wall mural depicting scenes from the city’s storied past. Chef Paul Gaffney offers a menu of Southern favorites including fried green tomatoes, a shrimp BLT, and homemade meatloaf. (See menu)
Insider tip: Start your meal with a cup of the lobster bisque.
- Spend your afternoon walking through McDonough’s past with a self-guided history tour. Learn about the town’s founding in the early 1800’s as a relay station on the stagecoach line. Find out how the Camp Creek train wreck in 1900 (read more) changed McDonough forever. Stroll past the stately homes of the city’s founding fathers and explore the City Cemetery where generations of McDonough families are laid to rest.
This walking tour takes approximately three to four hours to complete.
- After a busy day of sightseeing, reward yourself with dinner at Seasons Bistro in the Buggy Works building. This elegant restaurant serves American inspired cuisine in an exquisite and quite historical setting. The cuisine is truly cultural fusion (see menu), an American bistro led by Chef Sam. Be sure to ask your server about the restaurant’s connection with the 1900 Camp Creek train wreck.