If the majestic 300-year-old oak trees on beautiful Red Gate Farms could speak, they might tell us about the Indians and Colonists who have walked the land, about wild animals who once roamed here, or the life stories of those buried in the cemetery hidden on the land. They would have a lot to say about historical events that have taken place here during the past two centuries. Although the trees can’t speak, through research we’ve learned that between 1861 and 1864 the land was an encampment for Confederate soldiers led by General William Hardy and later occupied by Union Army troops led by General William T. Sherman after their March to the Sea. Many Union and Confederate artifacts have been found on the land.
We also know that a Powder Magazine to house ammunition was built on land bordering Red Gate Farms in 1898. The Powder Magazine care-keeper’s house was built on land which eventually became part of Red Gate Farms and the house was moved to another location on the farm. The remnants of the Powder Magazine can still be seen on Ogeechee Road and the care-keeper’s house can be seen at Red Gate.
Mr. Harry E. Martin, Jr. purchased the wooded 440 acres in 1931. Harry Martin was a direct descendant of John Martin, a Scottish Highlander emigrant who came to the Georgia Colony around 1742 to help protect the colony and in 1782 became governor of the colony. Highlanders are known for their passion for their land and their fierce protectiveness of their family and land. Harry Martin definitely possessed the same characteristics as his ancestor. He often wondered how many of his ancestors may have walked this same land before him. Harry Martin was also known for his entrepreneurial spirit, but even he could not have foreseen the magnitude of his purchase. Harry Martin and his wife, Mamie Smith Martin, named their new home “Red Gate Farms” in memory of her first cousin, Cyrus Steadwell, who was killed in France during World War I. Mr. Steadwell had said on many occasions that someday he would like to own a farm and he would call it Red Gate. An interesting fact in conjunction with Cyrus Steadwell is that when his mother visited his burial sight at Flanders Field, she brought home poppy seeds which she planted all around her home in Pooler, Georgia. People came from miles around to see the beautiful poppies. We believe this may have begun the tradition of giving and wearing poppies on Veterans Day.
The Martin’s began a dairy farm and cultivated 300 acres for silage corn, grain crops and pasture land for their 140 Jersey cows. Their dairy, hog and chicken farm became widely known and was used as a model for other farmers throughout Georgia. Mr. Martin led the State of Georgia in Jersey herd development and became a “folk hero” when he led a major fight to lower milk prices. His continued feud with the State Milk Control Board resulted in fair prices for milk for everyone.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin loved Red Gate and instilled in their children and grandchildren a great love and pride for the land. Although the land is no longer used for farming, it remains an oasis of country living just off Chatham Parkway between Highway 17 and the Veterans Parkway in the middle of fast-growing Chatham County. Only eight minutes from downtown Historic Savannah, it remains the home of Mrs. Patricia Smith, one of the Martin’s daughters, and several of the Martin grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In fact, some of their grandchildren own and operate businesses from Red Gate.
In 1997, the Martin’s granddaughter, Laura, and her husband, Fred Mackey, accomplished their dream of building a home at Red Gate farms. Their love for family, friends and entertaining is reflected in the home they designed. The Colonial style architecture with a grand staircase, beautifully decorated rooms, and landscaped grounds are ideal for entertaining and relaxing.. Soon after the house was completed, their daughter Tonya got married and the home hosted its first event. And after Tonya’s wedding, Fred and Laura received dozens of requests from friends wanting to host events in their home. Thus, an event venue was born! Although they now live on Tybee Island, the Mackey family retain private suites in the house.
Laura and Fred who have owned ABC Childcare Centers since 1972, as well as other Savannah enterprises, are well known for their southern hospitality. As a result, The Mackey House now provides full formal or casual party services for every type of event. Laura and Fred, along with the rest of The Mackey House staff, welcome the opportunity to make your special event a memorable one for you and your guests. Visit their web site at www.mackeyhouse.com or call (912) 234-7404 for more information and a tour.
The Mackey House Photo by Two Young Photography