History of the Hampton House

By Tracy Coley Ingram | Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sunlight or fresh-churned butter? It’s difficult to decide which term best describes the color of the walls inside the expansive front hall of the Hampton House in Colbert – but the overall first impression is clear from the moment a person steps inside – a sense of history.

The exterior makes an impressive statement to the home’s Classic Revival style and the details give the impression of being associated with high society. Yet there is a coziness that draws the guest.

Perhaps it is the nearly 3 1/2-acre lot nestled in the curve of a quiet, small-town street. Maybe it is the wide porches that invite with whispers of summer evenings spent in rocking chairs or family gatherings that spill onto the shaded backyard deck. It is most probable that the home is so welcoming simply because it has been home to people for nearly 100 years.

The house was built by Dr. H. Hawkins Hampton and his first wife, Martha Elizabeth (Bessie) Griffeth, on land he purchased in 1908. He began construction in 1909 using lumber from trees cut on the site, and the couple took up residence in 1910.

Polly Hampton, the wife of the late James Hiram Hampton Jr., who was a grandson of the doctor and his first wife, has made a hobby of collecting the Hampton family history including that of the home in Colbert. Polly’s records include land deeds, photographs, and personal journals.

According to the records, the house originally was on a 5-acre tract, although the Hamptons also owned and farmed additional property across the street. The water well was conveniently located on the back porch while the yard held several outbuildings including space for livestock, walnut and pecan trees, and vegetable and flower gardens. The Hamptons had five sons and a daughter before Bessie’s death in 1916. Polly said she has not seen the death certificate, which might reveal Bessie’s cause of death.

The age and style of the home are noteworthy enough for Colbert, but the house is a reminder of early life in the city. It not only sheltered the Hampton family but also housed Hampton’s medical practice. Some county residents actually could call the house their birthplace.

According to the Hampton family history, one of the front rooms was used to treat patients. Hampton brought them into the house for their medical attention – whether it was for a cough, a broken bone or to deliver a baby.

James Smith’s expansive plantation was adjacent to Hampton’s land. Local lore holds that Smith, who once ran for governor of Georgia, would signal Hampton by a light through one of his plantation home windows at night when someone on his vast estate needed care.

Hampton also was instrumental in the development of Colbert, according to the history. He built houses and businesses and kept up an active role in supporting the children in the area by setting enrollment goals for the school, which when achieved were rewarded through schoolwide parties at his expense. Hampton played a role in the establishment of Sunday School programs at both Colbert Baptist and Colbert Methodist churches. In 1940, Hampton’s funeral was held Colbert Methodist Church.

Hampton met his second wife, Annie Laurie Bray of Wrightsville, while she was visiting a friend in Colbert. Bray was nearly 30 years old at the time, but Hampton still was 24 years her senior and he had six children ranging in age from 6 to 23.

Dr. Herb Britt – a grandson of Hampton and Annie Laurie – now lives in Massachusetts. He shared this story of his grandparents’ courtship.

“Apparently, the good doctor was smitten by Miss Annie Laurie Bray and wanted to impress her and her family, so he had his son dress in a chauffeur’s uniform and at the wheel of an elegant car drive him the 110 miles to Wrightsville so he could make a formal proposal to her in style. She was hesitant at first but he was persistent, and she finally accepted – perhaps because she did not want to be a spinster, or perhaps she was quite taken by his elegant home.”

They married in August 1919.

Annie Laurie and Hampton had three children of their own and they raised their grandson, Jim Hampton after the death of his parents – his father in 1943 and his mother in 1945. This made 10 Hampton children raised in the home.

The Great Depression made life difficult, even for the town’s doctor. Hampton suffered a debilitating stroke leaving Annie Laurie to support the family.

She raised chickens, sold eggs and returned to the teaching career she had begun before meeting Hampton, Britt said.

“No matter what tasks and chores she took on, she never lost her dignity or her proper upbringing.

When she was in her 50s, she went back to college at the University of Georgia and taught fifth grade at Colbert until required to retire at the age 70, touching the life of every Colbert child for a whole generation,” Britt said.

The house recently has undergone a complete renovation and modernization, but it remains true to the Classic Revival-style under the hands of the new owners, Edwin Hart and Tripp Strickland. With columns now topped by Corinthian capitals fronting five bedrooms and plenty of space to spare, the home has generous space.

When asked what his hopes are for the future of this piece of Madison County history, Strickland replied- “I’d like to see a family happy there.” One only can imagine the Hamptons would agree.

Dr. H. Hawkins Hampton’s 1929 ledger book reflects the cost of services he provided as Colbert’s doctor and the fact that he accepted farm produce as payment:

  • Office visit charge: $1 to $2
  • Tooth extraction: .25 cents to .50 cents
  • Set a broken leg: $5
  • Set a broken finger: $1.50
  • Delivering a baby: $15
  • Fees traded out: $6.50 paid with a turkey and 13 eggs; $15 paid with three goats.