Titled, “A Simpler Time,” the book includes many stories and rarely seen historic photographs. All proceeds from the sale of the 192-page book, published by Southern Lion Books, will benefit the Taylor-Brawner House Foundation Inc., which maintains the historic Taylor-Brawner House.
A book signing is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 9 at the home, located at 3182 Atlanta Road in Smyrna. Copies of the book are $25.
Terry, a TBHF historian, was part of the nearly five-year effort, beginning in 2004, to save and restore the Taylor-Brawner House from demolition. Besides creating the TBHF, the campaign generated public support and money, which led to the restoration of the house and nearby Brawner Sanitarium, now called Brawner Hall. Both were recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The campaign also unearthed many stories, photos, newspaper clippings and artifacts, which Terry was commissioned by the TBHF board to include in a book. “A Simpler Time” is his first book.
It is divided into four sections about the Taylors, Brawners, Smyrna’s property acquisition and TBHF.
William Micajah Taylor built the five-room Taylor-Brawner House around 1890 as a retreat for his sizeable family. It was later sold to the Brawner family, which also operated the Brawner mental hospital.
Before conducting years of research and interviews, Terry said he was unaware Taylor had fought in important battles during the Civil War. After the war, Taylor and an older brother moved from rural Virginia to the Atlanta area.
“Both of them became very successful business people,” Terry said. “Micajah especially, he was wealthy. I went to the state archives and found a listing of all of his assets on the day that he died, and let me tell you, the man had money.”
The home and surrounding 180 acres of land — which stretched from the railroad tracks near Atlanta Road to South Cobb Drive — were sold by Taylor’s widow, Mary, in 1909, Terry said. Dr. James Brawner purchased much of the property and built a private hospital behind the house for people with mental disorders, and alcohol and drug addictions.
Recognized for its cutting edge treatments, it was not uncommon to see Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and business executives arriving at the hospital in black limousines, said Terry. The Brawners owned the hospital until 1978.
“I think the best stories in there are about the Brawners because they had this hospital,” Terry said of his book. “When I interviewed doctors and old nurses still around, began to read newspaper articles and so forth, I found some really cool stories. Just funny things about the people that lived there, doctors and nurses, and some sad stories too.”
Smyrna Presbyterian Church is located less than 200 yards from the hospital. During a Wednesday choir rehearsal one night in the 1950s, a male patient surprised many of the choir members and pastor by running down the sanctuary’s center aisle stark naked.
The pastor, now in his 90s, recalled the episode decades later to Terry, noting that the patient had grabbed a hymnal to cover his private parts when he had confronted him and explained that he was looking for God.
“(The pastor) said, ‘This didn’t really happen, but it’s how I explained it to the congregation,’” Terry said. “When that hymnal flew open, it opened up to the old hymn, ‘Just as I Am.’”
Lillie Wood, wife of former Smyrna Councilman Pete Wood, said she has already finished reading the book and believe readers will enjoy it.
“Having been involved with the acquisition of the Taylor-Brawner House from the beginning, I thought that he did an authentic job of all of the things he said about the acquisition,” she said.
Wood, a past TBHF board president, said that a lot of Smyrna residents were saddened to see many old homes demolished two decades ago to make way for Smyrna Market Village and other redevelopment projects downtown. She said that while necessary, the demolition spurred community leaders to save the Taylor-Brawner House.
Terry, 65, grew up in his beloved city as a fourth generation Smyrnan.
In 1963, he graduated from Campbell High School and from Jacksonville State University in 1968. He retired from a printing company he co-owned in Stone Mountain and his since volunteered in schools, served on planning and zoning boards for Smyrna and Cobb County, and is a past president of the Smyrna Golden K Kiwanis Club. He is married to Sue and has one grown child and two grandchildren.
Terry is currently in the middle of a book tour at various civic clubs, home owner associations, garden clubs, historic societies and library groups. “A Simpler Time” is presently Southern Lion Books’ book of the month.
“I’ve always loved any kind of history, especially local history, and I also love to write,” Terry said. He said fellow history lovers who are interested in Smyrna and Cobb County will find his book an enjoyable and easy read.
“I told somebody the other day that it isn’t Hemingway, but it’s a pretty good book,” he said.
“A Simpler Time” can be ordered by contacting (770) 438-6182 or firstname.lastname@example.org.