Family members of a former slave are working to preserve his legacy

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LYONS, Ga. (WSAV) – A former slave opened the first school for African Americans in Toombs County. Several generations later his family members say they’re working to preserve that land and his legacy. 

Ten acres of land off of Lyons Center Road in Lyons, Georgia was once owned by a former slave. That former slave, Charles and his wife Polly Hicks, used the land to build Toombs county’s first school for African Americans.

It’s also where Charles, who fought on both sides during the civil war, and many other African Americans from the area, are buried. 

Now, Hicks’ great-grandson Thomas Jones and his wife Laurell Jones said they’re trying to save this important piece of history. 

“They were planning for a future for children who weren’t able to educate anywhere else,” Laurell said. 

“It’s very important because they were such pillars in our community. They built some wonderful things to include the school that Laurell just mentioned and we think that it would just be a tragedy if we didn’t preserve that,” Thomas explained.  

The Jones’ hope that they can help turn the land into a historic site that would honor their ancestor’s lifelong devotion to the community. 

” We want to have it registered with the national registry as well as Georgia registry. We want to get the cemetery back up to par…Make this a park-like setting, a community setting because he, they, served a lot of the community,” Thomas added.

But before the preservation process can fully begin, the property needs to be signed over to The Hicks Preserve, LLC. The Jones’ said since the land was passed down from generation to generation, without a will, all of the Hick’s heirs have to sign off on transferring over the land. 

They say there’s a chance the property could fall out of their hands if they don’t get all the signatures they need.

“All it takes is one heir selling out their portion of the land to a developer and that’s a real possibility,” Laurell said.
Thomas added, “God forbid that happen on this sacred ground.” 

The Jones’ are hoping to have all of the heirs signatures in the near future. 

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