By 1930, Cason Callaway had built an empire in textiles. Most of the citizens of LaGrange looked to his mills for their paychecks. But Cason Callaway needed some time away from the activity of the mills. Several years earlier while on a picnic with some friends, Cason and Virginia had discovered a beautiful luminous pond of crystal blue water. On a summer’s day some nine years later, Virginia and Cason, along with their three children, headed to that spot near Hamilton, GA, which they would later name Blue Springs. These early times at Blue Springs were joyous, and Cason began to seek happiness beyond his busy career. He pondered how his accumulated wealth could benefit others.
At first, Blue Springs was only a weekend retreat, but then the Callaways began to spend more and more time in their simple cabin. When they finally moved from LaGrange to Hamilton, their land holdings had increased far beyond the original purchase of Blue Springs. Cason used to say he didn’t want all the land in the world, just the land that adjoined his.
Cason and Virginia Callaway built a four-bedroom cottage after purchasing 2,500 acres in Harris County in 1930. Fuller Callaway Jr. and his wife, Alice, built what is today the main house. Both houses were originally planned to be weekend country retreats for the couples to commute to from LaGrange, 30 miles away. Virginia and Alice Callaway were sisters and married the Callaway brothers in 1920 and 1930, respectively.
The 14-acre lake in front of the house was the first of many lakes to be built by Cason. He named it Lake Ida for his mother, Ida Cason Callaway. This house is located three miles from the actual “blue springs” that inspired the Callaways to visit here and eventually move from LaGrange in 1938.
Gradually, he purchased many acres in Harris County, and without realizing it at first, his new industry was about to become farming. Cason’s brother, Fuller, took leadership of the mills in the late 1930s, allowing Cason to turn all his attention to farming. Some of the acreage was as eroded and sterile as any in Georgia.
Although he was a novice farmer, he was eager to improve the land and to learn new and better techniques. He was always open to new ideas, and with his keen sense of business and adventure, he experimented with terracing, cover crops, and fertilizer. He planted alternative crops such as oats, muscadines, and blueberries. Even kudzu, introduced by the USDA, was planted as an answer to erosion and as a source of fodder. He set the example and drove home ideas of soil restoration through the Georgia Better Farms Program. He stabilized much of his eroded land with pine forests, and people came by the trainload to see what he was doing. He found great happiness in showing others how to help themselves.
Blue Springs Farm became a pioneer ground for food processing. Cason believed in fresh food, and he built a dehydrating plant, a canning plant, grain storage facilities, and freezer lockers so the bounty grown at Blue Springs could be processed locally.
Cason Callaway the industrialist had become one of Georgia’s leading farmers and agricultural economists. Soon Cason’s days as a farmer became just as hectic as those in textiles, and in 1947 his heart let him know it was time to slow down. While convalescing from a heart attack, he turned away from the farm, feeling that it had served its purpose.
At age 53, Cason embarked on his greatest endeavor – the farmer became a gardener. He entered a period of transition, determined to balance his drive with his now limited physical capacities. He divided his property among family members and the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation. After his death in 1961, Virginia carried on his legacy.
Upon Virginia Callaway’s death in 1995, the house and adjacent 50 acres went to the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, and the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.