By LYDIA BERGLAR
The Dade County Historical Society is taking a break from leading guided hikes and cemetery walks in order to host walk-throughs of historic Dade County homes. The first walk-through is of the Forester home in Head River on Lookout Mountain.
Set for April 29 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (with a rain date of May 6), the walk-through will showcase historical items in the house. Steve Forester, current owner of the house, explained that the house has become something of a family museum, saying, “That’s my intent for it as long as I’m alive.”
He said, “There are things in the house that have been added by previous family members over the years. Someone once said that it seems like people lived here but all disappeared, leaving everything behind intact.”
Donna Street, local historian, said, “It’s a cool old house. Steve has done a magnificent job of keeping it up. He’s got a big collection of things. I was impressed by the old appliances. He’s got old games, toys, and furniture.”
Leading up to the tour, the Historical Society has been sharing stories of the Forester family and the history behind the house via Facebook and the Sentinel, with Steve writing the content. The home is a 150-year-old farmhouse that has been in the Forester family since about 1880.
Peter and Lucy (Beckham) Forester first bought the house around 1880. (The exact date is uncertain.) Doris Nell Forester was the last to be born in the house in 1944, and Michael and Betty (Harris) Forester were the last to live in the house in the mid 1970s.
The family began using the house for five-year reunions in 2015. When Gordon Forester died in 2020, the house then passed to Steve, Gordon’s son. Steve explained that the house suffered from neglect in the intervening years from 1976 to 2012, with broken windows, water damage, and clutter taking over the house.
The roof was replaced in the 1980s, and Steve explained, “In anticipation of making this a location for our already established five-year reunions, I began to clear out the clutter in 2012. I replaced the boards on the south porch, and in 2014, I installed nine new windows.”
Between 2015 and 2020, Steve continued to improve the house. He reported, “For the 2020 reunion, there was once again a working bathroom in the house. Now, I just try to maintain what’s there, feeling blessed to still have this 150-year-old treasure on the farm.”
The Historical Society is planning at least one more home tour for the fall. Street explained, “The hikes and cemetery walks have been popular, but we wanted to do things that would encourage people with different interests to get involved. Some people have put so much work into maintaining these old houses, but usually, nobody sees them because they’re private property.”
According to Street, “Almost everybody in Dade County has a connection to the Forester family.” See Steve’s updates on Facebook and in the Sentinel for more about these broad-reaching connections.
The Historical Society reports that a full history of Head River (written by Hugh Forester in 1938) can be found in chapter 11 of History of Dade County: Volume 1. It is also available online.
The Forester home is located at 1021 Gordon Forester Road, Menlo, GA 30752 and can be reached from Trenton by taking Highway 136 to Highway 157 to Yankee Road to Gordon Forester Road.