Story By: Valerie Cashin.
It shouldn’t be a town people just pass through on their way to Columbus or Warm Springs, Georgia. It shouldn’t be someplace people drive through not taking time to think of the rich sense of community that fills it. But, unfortunately that happens all too often for the community that stretches 3.4 miles in the heart of Harris County.
Nestled 12 miles down a one-lane road is Waverly Hall, Georgia, a town that, in a time where it is common for neighbors to not know each other’s names, holds tight to the true meaning of community.
Waverly Hall originated as a trading store in the old Bussey House, which still stands today. As legend goes, the town was named based on the fondness the town’s first postmaster, William Bussey, had for Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverly Novels.”
Today, it is a town filled with residents who love it just the way it is.
“Waverly Hall is quite, nice and laid back,” said Nell Holden, a resident of the community for eight years. “It feels safe and very comfortable. It’s a great place to raise your family.”
Holden spends one day a week at Lilly’s Garden, an unmarked store off the main road in the town. Cement yard ornaments stand in front of the cottage-like building. Drivers who see something they like, anything from a pig to a lion, can purchase one of the decorations even if the store is closed, thanks to the honor system in place.
But that isn’t all that Lilly’s Garden has to offer. Holden has made one man’s junk another man’s treasure within. When the doors of Lilly’s Garden are open, visitors can step in and take a peek around at the treasures inside of the store.
And it’s worth stopping in for the chance to see the handmade quilts made by Holden’s daughter, picture boards to display memories, or deals on items such as a vintage medicine bag or office desk.
Across the two-lane street running through the town is a small walking track where much of the community’s activities are centered.
During the booming days of the railroad industry, Waverly Hall was a vibrant town. Even though financial hardships for the town followed the decline of the industry, Waverly Hall is grateful for the reminder of these days that remains.
So much so that where the railroad ran through the town is now a walking trail called the Village Green walking trail.
Along the walking trail is a small playground that was named in honor of a former police chief of the Waverly Hall Police Department, another building that is just a stone’s throw away from the trail.
Wallace Edward “Moses” Marriner was hired as a police officer in the 1970’s. He soon became the town’s police chief. Marriner served as the police chief for more than 30 years until a disability led him to step down. He passed away in March of 2013, and the playground is a reminder of his cherished memory and impact he left in Waverly Hall.
James Stretch and Peter Hidalogo, two long-time residents and community activists, are responsible for securing the donations and purchasing the property from the railroad for the walking trail. The full length of the track is just under a mile.
The Waverly Hall Village Green Historic Preservation Society also played a key role in the conservation of the trail.
“Now the society is geared more to creating future history,” said former mayor Dennis McPherson.
The future history that is created by the society includes hosting town events such as Dinner on the Green, a potluck dinner where members of the community bring their favorite dish and share in the fellowship of living in a small town where it seems everyone knows everyone’s name.
Each year the historical society is also responsible for hosting the town’s annual Chili Cook-off. The event celebrated its eighth birthday in 2014 on the first weekend of November.
The chilled air was not enough to keep 12 dedicated chefs from showing off their famous recipes. For $5 attendees were deemed judges, equipped with a spoon and a ballot that broke the competition into five categories, including four-alarm chili, white chili, vegetable chili, wild game chili and tradition chili.
Decorated tables attract judges who sampled some of the finest chili they had ever tasted. With bragging rights and blue ribbons up for grabs, the participants were not shy in showing off any previous awards they may have won.
“I toned my recipe down this year,” said Angel Elovich, a fourth-year participant in the annual event. “I won the four-alarm category my first year, but no one would even sample it last year because they remembered how hot it was,” she said.
Events like the Chili Cook-Off and the Dinner on the Green as well as a December Christmas party bring the community together.
“Waverly Hall has a real sense of community,” said Heather Brown, a 21-year-old resident who has lived in the town since she was born. “We had a Halloween parade recently, and we will decorate certain areas during the holidays. We like to stay festive.”
The children’s Christmas party is organized by Ella Marshall, the current president of the Waverly Hall Village Green Historic Preservation Society. The money raised allows the society to provide food, games and even gifts for the children in the community.
“Sometimes we will have 500 to 600 people come to the party,” said Marshall. “And in a town of 800, that’s a pretty good turnout for a Christmas celebration.”
It seems as if the more things change, the more they stay the same in Waverly Hall. The community has seen its fair share of change throughout the years, but they continue to fight for history to be maintained.
According to McPherson, when the state wanted to construct a four-lane extension from Georgia State Route 85 from Ellerslie, Georgia, to Manchester, Georgia, the town came together. Not only would it have greatly disrupted the town, it would have also meant releasing a large portion of the walking trail to complete the project. While some supported the project, the opposition won out, and the walking trail survived.
“Waverly Hall is like a little Mayberry,” said Dana Lawski, a resident of the community.
Lawski expressed a sentiment for the town that is shared by many of the town’s long-time residents. It isn’t hard to find a family that can connect their family line to part of Waverly Hall for decades or a member of the community who is able to recall which building used to house their grandfather’s business back in the earlier days of the town.
Time and time again it seems like local citizens come together like a family. When a need arises, they fight to find a way to meet whatever it may be. When the volunteer fire department voiced a need for funds, the community yard sale was created.
Held on the first Saturday of the month, the community yard sale invites vendors, and residents pay a small fee to set up shop along the walking trail. It is a rather large production, and some vendors arrive well before the 9 a.m. start time to set up shop. In efforts to help the success of the yard sale, the F&AM Masonic Lodge agreed to handle the sale every other month.
In this little town there is no need for a stoplight, and life moves a little slower. But that’s just the way they like it in Waverly Hall, Georgia.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” said Marshall. “My children grew up here. They moved on, but I stay. We get along good. I love Waverly Hall, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Glory Café and Bakery is a Healthy Alternative
That’s what the sign outside of the little store boasts. And that’s exactly what the owner of Glory Café & Bakery is committed to providing.
Beams of natural light flood the room that makes up the entirety of the shop found a few steps away from the Village Green walking trail. Three copies of various translations of the Bible are positioned in several locations throughout the cozy café.
Valerie Bullock said she manages the café and bakery as a Christ-centered business. The menu offers a healthy alternative to the types of food that encourages principles of good eating.
The cafe is often filled with local men’s and women’s groups that meet to have Bible studies within the warmth of the Glory Café.
The scent of fresh basil takes over the room as Bullock breaks off leaves from the fresh plant delivered by a local resident of Waverly Hall. Recipes for how best to use the fresh herb are exchanged in the checkout lane before the customer scatters out of the store with a homemade loaf of pumpkin bread.
Beside the mounds of freshly baked bread are bottles and containers that line the insides of several bookcases and shelves that fill the bakery. The soaps and lotions contained in the bottles are all homemade by Bullock using local ingredients from the community, including local goat’s milk.
Mismatched wooden chairs surround three long, wooden tables, creating a feeling as if the bakery is more of a kitchen that could be found in a house somewhere in the town. A black, Dutch oven is present but not functioning, although the bakery does provide welcoming warmth to visitors during the cooler months of the year.
Bullock moved to Waverly Hall about three years ago, following what she said she felt the Lord was calling her to do. Her older brother was already a resident in the community, and he has family living in Columbus, Georgia, a short 15 minutes away.
“I have always preferred a rural lifestyle,” she said. “And this community provided that lifestyle for me with the benefit of a broader base of service 15 miles away in Columbus. If a person can be satisfied with the absolutes of basic necessities, they are available to them in this community.”
For Bullock, Glory Café is not about the small extra income that it provides. She said it is more about providing a place where she can share Christian love and healing.
“It is a peaceful place, and people feel safe here,” Bullock said. “I make high quality products that are not offensive to our health and stretch people in a gentle way to move from a less healthy lifestyle.”
Bullock is devoted to the success of the people within the community. The bakery portion of Glory Café and Bakery also serves as a learning space. She is passionate about providing the opportunity for young people in the community to learn essential skills like baking bread.
“I admire Valerie’s persistence and diligence,” said Waverly Hall resident and personal friend of Bullock, Lydia Stephens. “She is offering healthy food in these days of fast food and microwave dinners. She wants to help with people’s physical health while helping their spiritual health. She will do whatever it takes.”
In her quest to love the people of Waverly Hall and to lead them to food that is locally grown, she began a campaign. According to Bullock, there are several gardeners, egg producers and others throughout the community who create local products and always have excess they would like to sell.
“I have been campaigning since I opened the bakery to organize a farmer’s market during the summer months,” she said.
This past year, with the help of a close friend, Dana Lawski, the Waverly Hall Village Market was born on the lawn of the Methodist Church, just two blocks from the Glory Café and Bakery.
“The community market gives local farmers the chance to sell their excess,” said Lawski. “But it also prevents members of the community from needing to drive to Columbus to get items that are locally grown.”
This story was produced with the support of
The Historic Chattahoochee Commission