When Mr. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and his wife Clara tired of cold Michigan winters, Henry bought 85,000 acres of land and in 1936 built Clara's dream house on the Ogeechee River in the poorest county in Georgia. The mansion had a marble staircase, air conditioning, an elevator, and such distinguished guests as the Vanderbilts, the Duponts, the Rockefellers, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone.
summer home of Henry Ford
Never one to loll around tanning and crabbing, Henry converted an old rice mill into a laboratory to work on inventions to improve the Ford Motor Company, including, he hoped, a Georgia rubber plantation to supply rubber for his factory.
The mansion isn't open to the public (although The Writer stayed there to write a book for a Saudi prince who owned it for a time. There was much wine, women, and frolicking in the reflecting pond until one night the prince disappeared on his huge yacht and fled the country. It was later revealed that he had been dipping into the family checkbook without permission.) Back to Henry.
Henry was deeply affected by the poverty, ignorance, and isolation of the people he found living in the area and beginning in the 1920s he set about making their lives better.
A small museum tells the story.
That's Hub on the porch. He took us under his wing and for two very enjoyable hours told us stories about Henry Ford and Richmond Hill, Georgia. The museum was built by Ford as a kindergarten for area children.
Ford built schools for all ages, both black and white, including a trade school, and imported trained teachers from the North, paid their salaries, and built homes for them. Students were given free meals cooked in the school kitchens.
He built a church and businesses to give the people jobs and his 600 employees and their families got a free house to live in. He brought medical care to the community and art and entertainment, including social dances every Saturday night. He built a hospital and a community kitchen where girls were taught skills and community dinners were served.
He drained swamps and turned old rice fields into lettuce production.
Best of all are the stories of how Ford took a personal interest in individuals and cared enough to make their lives better. And there were dozens of these stories.
An elderly former slave, Jane Lewis, was found to be living in complete poverty in a run-down shack.
When Ford heard about her, he had a house built for her and his wife Clara picked out paint colors and furniture to furnish it. He provided health care, food, and everything else the woman needed until her death.
When Ford heard that the daughter of one of his employees had polio and was unable to walk he purchased a wheelchair for her and arranged to have her sent north to specialists.
When she returned he provided a car to pick her up and take her to school every day and later paid for her college education.
On the far left is a dough mixer he bought for a baker when he saw her mixing vast quantities of dough by hand.
Henry Ford was a complicated man. His political and social views were unpopular and controversial and he seems to have been very hard on his only son, Edsel. But he is the man known for inventing an automobile that ordinary people could afford and judging by the town he built in Georgia, he was someone who cared about people.