Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Georgia Town That Henry Ford Built

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.

Richmond Hill,

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.



  1. it is a really impressive mansion. The history is really interesting.

  2. Interesting history. I think I had read somewhere of the philanthropic
    side of Henry Ford.
    Makes you wonder about "certain BILLIONAIRES" these days and their motives???
    You have excelled yourself Cynthia with the written word and your photos of this
    Georgia plantation.
    PS: I hope Mason's lessons are progressing on schedule?????

  3. I like that Richmond Hill is still just a small town, it's one of the reasons we picked it, but we live about 8 miles out of town. Old Henry was an interesting man, did you know he almost destroyed the Ford Motor Company?

  4. He seemed to make good use of his wealth. A very interesting post.

  5. So interesting post.. I just have found your blog.. i also like to going different places.. though I've seen very few places.. I always love those places which are not actually tourist spot. Just like Carpenteria which I visited last year. That small town has so much to offer.. But after coming bak from there I didn't write about the place, and when I sat down to write, I found that I forgot almost all. So I didn't write. Your blog is very beautiful.. I'm following you.. please follow me back.. :)

  6. What an interesting side to Henry Ford. Lucky for the area that the cold winters chased him to warmer climes!

  7. Interesting heart warming story.

  8. I hadn't heard anything of Henry Ford's history before - he did sound like a good man. That house would have kept plenty employed in the area with just the cleaning of it.

  9. This was so very interesting, Cynthia. Thank you so much for telling us about him. What an amazing man!

  10. Such a charming story, heart warming to know what a caring man he was. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Looks a big house. What a kind man he was.

  12. At least he didn't spill his money to parties and women. He had a social heart at the right place and helped the poor onens.

  13. An interesting post. I didn't realise how much Ford helped the local people. It would be an interesting museum to visit.

  14. What a great legacy to leave behind. :)

  15. I didn't know this side of Henry Ford and thank you for sharing his story. His many good deeds brought tears to my eyes and is an even better example of doing good with wealth than the stories I grew up hearing about Andrew Carnegie here in Pennsylvania.

  16. This is a very interesting post. The examples you gave of what Ford had done are inspiring. Seems to me he kept his eyes and heart open to giving help where it was needed. I can imagine how much help the mixer was to the baker. I couldn't help but remember when I got two fingers caught in a mixer nearly that size. Luckily I was running it on low, so I only fractured them instead of losing them altogether!

  17. I feel more kindly about this man after reading your post! Great historical photos.