The marker was two years in the making, a testament to the dedication and perseverance of one man — Perry ‘Bill’ Bailey. Now living in Alabama, Bailey was heartbroken when he heard from former neighbors that his hometown’s history was being forgotten and began the campaign to bring the small mill village back to prominence by launching the PBB Fullerville Jail Committee made up of local residents.
“Now, it’s no longer in the weeds,” he said.
Through the efforts of Bailey and his committee, Fullerville has new sidewalks, the jail is being preserved and a road was named after the late Sarah Sauls — long considered the first lady of Fullerville. The historic marker is just one part of a trailhead project that will feature restroom facilities, a pavilion, an interpretive center and parking near the old jail using a $500,000 state grant the city received. The project is expected to begin in 2013 and be finished in 2014.
“This will hopefully be a centerpiece for the new Fullerville, but it will also tell about the old Fullerville and what Fullerville used to be,” Deputy City Manager Jeff Reese said.
The Fullerville Jail served the city of Fullerville along Rockmart Road from the time of its incorporation in 1916 until the city’s annexation into Villa Rica in 1956. However, the one-room jail is not the original as local lore has it that the original wooden jail was burned to the ground in the late 1920s or early 1930s by a prisoner attempting to make his escape, which led to construction of the more sturdy concrete structure that sits in Fullerville today.
Mainly a mill community during its existence, Fullerville was bustling with industry that included a cotton mill, a hosiery mill, a company store, several eateries, a lumber yard and a casket company.
Mayor J. Collins, who has relatives from Fullerville, said he was very proud of the community efforts that have been made the past few years and he’s amazed at how far the community has come in just a short period of time.
Councilman Rusty Dean, who represents the Fullerville community on the council, showed appreciation to those who took Bailey’s idea and helped make it happen.
“I’d like to thank all the people, all the hours and all the phone calls that were made to make a marker like this happen,” he said. “You just don’t ask and it occurs. You have to ask and ask and ask. It takes a lot of time because government works slow and it takes a lot of phone calls and a lot of people doing that.”
Many in attendance at Saturday’s marker dedication praised Bailey and his efforts in bringing focus on Fullerville.
“I applaud you for having that dream, for growing up here and seeing the worst of what government can be and for seeing the best of what government can be,” Reese said to Bailey. “I applaud you for putting together the great committee that you did and for having the vision. I’m proud to be a part of that vision in whatever capacity I have been.”
Bailey humbly accepted the praise, but thanked those who he said really made it happen.
“You’ve given me the credit, credit that I don’t think I deserve,” he said. “The credit that I deserve is maybe initiating it, but without you this would have never taken place.”
He thanked Reese in particular for getting things moving with the city, as well as those at City Hall and on the council. He also praised those who have served on the jail committee for their tireless efforts in taking the reins in Villa Rica while he was in Alabama.
Before the marker was unveiled many stories from those who grew up in Fullerville were shared, including the fact that many of its residents spent time in the jail for infractions as small as not wearing a t-shirt while walking down the main street through town, hanging out your clothes to dry on a Sunday and riding a horse too fast through town.
Bailey even revealed the name of the man who burned down the jail — Floyd “Buckeye” Tolbert Sr., who died last May at the age of 99. Bailey interviewed Tolbert for his book, “West Georgia Mills and their People, the Sons and Daughter of Fullerville, Georgia,” but promised him he wouldn’t reveal the fact that he had burned down the original wooden jail until he after he had died.
“He liked to have burned himself up,” Bailey said. “If it hadn’t been for the community of Fullerville he would have burned to death.”
To protect it until the trailhead project is complete, the jail has a chain-link fence around it. However, the marker is clearly visible through the fence and those who could not attend Saturday’s event are encourage to come by and look at it.
“There’s not a jail like this in the state of Georgia,” Bailey said. “It’s worth saving. There’s a lot of history here.”