Residents reminisce with loads of old photos on new Facebook page
The old courthouse with the Edge Building that houses the Pickens Progress in the background:
One of the “Photos of Pickens County Georgia” creator Gaylon Mathew’s
favorites that have been posted on the Facebook page.
Just a week after photographer Gaylon Mathews created a Facebook page dedicated to sharing photos of Pickens County history, the group had already attracted over 4,300 members who had made over 95,000 posts/comments/reactions.
In the first post on “Photos of Pickens County Georgia,” created April 7, 2019, Mathews outlines the page’s goal: to “share photos of businesses, industry, churches, cemeteries, abandoned structures, old home places, attractions, waterfalls, lakes and ponds, wildlife street photos, people, sports, incidents, newsworthy events, farms, and so on.”
He encourages people to “Have fun, enjoy and share.”
Mathews, who was born and raised in Pickens County, took up photography about five years ago. He is self-taught thanks to YouTube, and has spent the last few years taking pictures of old buildings and a variety of other points-of-interest around the county. “Photos of Pickens County Georgia” was born out of his desire to preserve Pickens’ past for the benefit of the future.
“I’ve got 1000s of my own photos and I was going through them the other day and thought, I need to start a group to share these and just see how it goes,” he said. “When I’m gone, I want my kids and grandkids to be able to look back and see how things used to be, so I started the page, but I had no idea it would take off like it’s done. If I would have known that I would have done it a long time ago. I honestly thought I would have had to end up deleting the page after a month or so because of inactivity.”
A cursory scroll through the posts shows that Mathews has already accomplished what he set out to do. The page is dripping in Pickens County nostalgia. A shared photo spurs shared memories from other users. Gaps in decades-old stories are filled in by strangers. People request photos of a building or storefront that has been gone decades, and in many cases another user produces a picture and posts it, which inspires more storytelling. The spirt of the page is a kind of organic, living photo album of the county, filled with warm reminiscing and sentimentality of users who share their stories.
One member’s post sums up the general attitude of the page. She writes: “My name is (fill in the blank with your name) and I’m addicted to Photos of Pickens County Georgia.”
Other users have said they love the page because it creates and strengthens a sense of community that, ironically, social media has been accused of taking away. One public official said the page is the first time in a long time he has seen Facebook create a positive atmosphere.
Some of Mathews’ favorite posts are pictures of old school houses and churches, and he also enjoys old storefronts. He even has a “bucket list” of long gone structures he hopes someone finds pictures of and posts. Above: The Chuckwagon was remodeled into what is now a law office on North Main Street near the wooden bridge.
“With the storefronts, I love to see those because when I was growing up we didn’t have these large grocery stores like Ingles,” Mathews said. “The county was full of little stores all over the place, and they’re gone now - but people still have photographs.”
Members also post photos of family members, newspaper clippings, or notable members of the community, and Mathews even posts photos of modern structures still in existence that he says, one day, will be old or gone and that people will want to look back on and remember.
With nearly 100,000 individual posts/likes/comments, Mathews said managing them all has been a challenge. He doesn’t have to approve posts before they’re made, but he is able to manage other aspects of the page and steer it in the general direction he wants. Some people have posted pictures taken just across county lines in places like Ball Ground, which he says is okay within reason, but he wants to keep it more-or-less a Pickens County page.
The only real issue he has run into is a preoccupation some users have with murders that happened in Pickens many years ago. Mathews said people post questions about a murder and they hit a nerve with surviving family members or friends who have asked for the post to be removed. Mathews complies in an effort to keep the page positive and non-confrontational. Mathews will also block users who engage in “foul language, political posts, negative speculation, hurtful rumors, or people and/or business bashing.”
“I really want it to be a family-friendly place people can enjoy,” Mathews said, “and I’m glad to see that people do seem to be enjoying it.”