Two of America’s best-loved Presidents have filled the annals of history with great oration, innovative governing and decisions that would affect generations to come. They shared not only a last name but also a love for the state of Georgia.
In this two-part series, we will explore both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt’s affiliations with and affections for the state of Georgia. Today, President Theodore Roosevelt.
Theodore Roosevelt- A Georgia History:
Theodore Roosevelt was born October 27, 1858 and went on to become the 26th President of the United States. The Roosevelt family’s roots run far back in American colonial history and Theodore’s mother’s family lived in Charleston, South Carolina before heading down the coast to Savannah, Georgia in 1760. Theodore’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side, Captain James Bulloch and his wife Ann Irvine had a son named James Stephens Bulloch who was born in Savannah in 1793.
James Stephens Bulloch’s second marriage was to Martha Stewart Elliott occurred at the Old Elliott House in Savannah (now demolished) and they went on to have four children the second being named Martha Bulloch.The family left Savannah in 1839 and moved to Cobb County, Georgia (which then included parts of modern-day Fulton County) where James Stephens Bulloch’s business partner Roswell King was establishing a cotton mill near what is today downtown Roswell.
Needing a place to live, in 1840 the Roosevelt family built Bulloch Hall using slave labor. It was in the dining room of that home that on December 22, 1853 Theodore “Thee” Roosevelt Sr. married Mittie Bulloch at the beginning of what would be a weeklong celebration that had the entire Southeastern U.S. talking.
Thee was born in 1831 to Cornelius Van Shaack Roosevelt, a businessman from New York City whose family had been in New York already for four generations, and Margaret Barnhill. Cornelius’s father, James Roosevelt had already made a fortune importing hardware and after school Cornelius joined the family business increasing the family’s worth making himself one of the five richest men in New York City at the time of his father’s death.Thee also joined the family business, increasing his personal and family wealth becoming a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History among other revered New York City institutions.
When Thee was 19, he journeyed to Roswell, Georgia with his friend Hilborne West who was married to Mittie Bulloch’s half sister, Susan Elliott. Five years younger than Thee, Mittie was unimpressed with the gentleman from the North and would feel the same way until they met again in Philadelphia in January 1953. Following their December 1853 wedding, Mittie and Thee moved to New York City where they soon had a brood of four which included Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
During his childhood, the future President heard about his mother’s childhood home in Roswell and following a visit in 1905, he wrote to his son Kermit that “It was really very touching coming to Roswell, my mother’s home. I had heard all about it when I was small from my mother and aunt, and I recognized a great many of the places and felt about them just as if I had seen them while a child. ”
He recalled his Southern roots while speaking in Roswell saying,
“I hardly like to say how deeply my heart is moved by coming back here among you. Among the earliest recollections I half a child is hearing from my mother and my aunt (Miss Annie Bulloch, she then was) about Roswell; of how the Pratts, and Kings, and Dunwoodys, and Bullochs came here first to settle; about the old homestead, the house on the hill; about the Chattahoochee…”
In addition to his visit to Bulloch Hall, President Theodore Roosevelt spent many hours touring some of Atlanta’s most treasured sites on October 20, 1905 including Piedmont Park where he gave a speech calling the city, “this mighty city, an industrial centre of the Union, in a great agricultural State.”
Following his presidency, Roosevelt returned to Georgia on October 8, 1910 to give a speech at what is now Berry College praising the hard work and dedication to education of Martha Berry.
On March 9, 1911, Roosevelt spoke before the Southern Commercial Congress in Atlanta where he referred to himself as a “fellow Georgian.”
In 1915 Roosevelt returned to Georgia for one last time speaking at the Terminal Station in Atlanta. Knocked down decades ago, the Richard B. Russell Federal Building has sat in that location since 1979.
Despite spending most of his life in New York City and Washington, D.C. Theodore Roosevelt never forgot his Georgia roots and was immensely proud of the role his family played in establishing the state and its commercial industries and made his heritage clear each time he visited the state.
See President Theodore Roosevelt’s History in Georgia:
Bulloch Hall- Located in Historic Downtown Roswell, Georgia, Bulloch Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be toured daily with the exception of major holidays.
Piedmont Park– The site of one of Theodore Roosevelt’s speeches while he was President, Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s largest park at 189 acres. History enthusiasts are invited to take one of the walking tours of the park offered by the Piedmont Park Conservancy.
The Wren’s Nest– Joel Chandler Harris, the author of the Uncle Remus stories was a good friend of President Roosevelt and a resident of Atlanta. The home Harris lived in stands as a museum dedicated to his life’s work. In 1910, Roosevelt spearheaded efforts to turn The Wren’s Nest into a museum and urged the American public to donate to the campaign.
Berry College – This independent four-year college is just outside Rome, Georgia and its founder Martha Berry earned praise from President Theodore Roosevelt during his visits to the school.
Old Elliott House- This home in Savannah, Georgia is the home where James Stephens Bulloch’s married Martha Stewart Elliott on May 8, 1832. Long since demolished, visit it online by clicking here.
Bulloch-Habersham House- The old house was located on Orleans Square was designed by William Jay in 1820 for Archibald Bulloch, Mittie Bulloch’s great-grandfather and a noted stateman in Savannah. It was demolished before 1915 to make way for a Municipal Auditorium. Today, the Civic Center stands where the home used to be. Click here to see pictures of the home.