Years ago, Kenneth H. Thomas Jr. received a gift from someone he met while working on one of Buckhead’s great mysteries.
It was a pair of socks. The card was signed “Wiewca.”
It all started with a Dixie Quiz question in 1983. The answer eluded even the great Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett: What is the origin of the name Wieuca, as in Wieuca Road in north Buckhead?
Thomas is the longtime genealogy columnist for the daily paper and an independent scholar. He was responsible for the Dixie Quiz for a short time. The question of Wieuca Road was one of his first when he took over the feature in 1983. A reader wrote a letter to the paper in response saying her father-in-law had been a good friend of Georgia Gov. Hugh Dorsey, and that’s who gave the road that name.
Thomas spoke to the Buckhead Heritage Society back in November at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead about the strange and winding journey that started nearly 40 years ago with that letter and continues to this day. Out of respect for his incredible research, I held off on the reveal until now.
The only references I found when I wrote on the subject in 2011 were in the book “Buckhead: A Place for All Time” by Susan Kessler Barnard and the North Buckhead Civic Association’s website. In a passage about the Wieuca Inn, Barnard writes Wieuca “got its name from the developer, who used his children’s initials.”
The association’s website said the children’s names were Wilhelmina, Eugenia and Catherine, thus Wi-Eu-Ca.
Incredibly, the real Wieuca — or rather Wiewca as it was originally spelled — is a combination of three names, but the names all belong to the same person: Wilhelmina Ewing Carter.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1885, Carter moved to Atlanta at a young age after the death of her father. When her mother died in 1895, her grandmother and later an aunt continued to raise her in Atlanta.
Thomas discovered she was a student at Agnes Scott Institute in 1900, which was a high school at that time. He found she met Dorsey, 14 years her senior, in 1903 or 1904, at least 12 years before he was first elected governor, and they appeared to have fallen deeply and madly in love.
In 1904, Dorsey was a successful attorney working at his father’s firm. The bachelor purchased 41 acres in the vicinity of today’s North Ivy and North Stratford roads in north Buckhead. Early newspaper accounts refer to the property as a farm, but it was likely a country home.
Many prominent Atlanta businessmen built houses in Buckhead at the turn of the century. The community offered a respite from the oppressive heat, commotion and grime of downtown.
Dorsey named the road leading to his house Wiewca for his girlfriend, the aforementioned Wilhelmina Ewing Carter.
Carter moved away from Atlanta, eventually attending Emerson College in Boston. Dorsey’s name appears on her 1907 application as her legal guardian. She would have been just 22 years old, while he was 36.
Their relationship, for whatever reason, didn’t last. In 1910, Carter was engaged to marry another man, Thomas Cusack. One month before the wedding, Thomas learned, Dorsey traveled to Boston to profess his love and convince her not to marry Cusack.
It didn’t work.
Wilhelmina Ewing Cusack moved to Chicago with her husband, then to Detroit. After he died, she returned to Chicago and remarried. She never had children and died there in 1941.
Through his research and discovery, Thomas found another Wilhelmina Ewing Carter, a niece of our famous Wiewca, who never met her aunt. She lived in Dallas, Texas. Over the years, as Thomas followed the threads of the story, they became friends.
One year for Christmas, she sent him the pair of socks, and signed the card, “Wiewca.” It was the first time he had seen the acronym actually used as a name.
It wasn’t the end. After speaking to Buckhead Heritage, Thomas continued to follow the leads. He is waiting for the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead to open back up so he can compare Dorsey’s papers with new information about the elder Wilhelmina Ewing Carter.
While there is more to come, at long last we know the origin of Wieuca Road.
It is a love story.