Macon: History and trivia from cherry blossoms to Little Richard

Macon History Cherry Blossoms

Macon history in agriculture has found it designated “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World”. (Gannett File)

DealChicken spends a lot of time hunting and pecking around the city in search of the best daily deals.  So it’s no surprise he’s come across his share of Macon history and trivia. Here’s a bit of local lore and facts that even your favorite fine-feathered know-it-all didn’t know until recently.

When people think of cherry blossoms in the United States, Washington, D.C., usually comes to mind. However, Macon puts the U.S. capital to shame and has been named the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” in several Congressional Records and by the Japanese Consul General. Macon has more than 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees that put on a spectacular display each spring. These blushing beauties are celebrated in March with the International Cherry Blossom Festival.

Macon’s park-friendly and natural aesthetic was no happy accident. The original planners of the city were inspired by the city of Babylon and wanted to have plenty of green space for residents to enjoy. To fulfill their plan and to ensure that locals were on board, they even required that residents plant shade trees in their front yards with various city ordinances. The city now has thousands of acres devoted to parks and recreation spaces.

Little Richard, one of the founders of rock ’n’ roll, got his foundation in Macon. While many have heard his famous song “Tutti Frutti” in movies and over the airwaves, Macon natives heard him singing the dishwasher blues around town years before that 1955 hit.

Macon was not named for a famous Georgia native, as would be expected. Instead, the city was named for a North Carolina man, Nathaniel Macon, who served in the Senate and as a Speaker of the House. During his time Macon was very well known in the country, and the founders of the Georgia town weren’t alone in their inspiration: Towns or counties bearing Macon’s name also appear in Alabama, Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri and Tennessee.

St. Joseph’s Church may be founded in the Catholic faith, but the church’s first two sites had Protestant foundations. The first Catholic parish in Macon was founded in a Presbyterian church that a priest and his followers purchased. When that site became too small, another priest bought yet another Presbyterian church for their second site. It wasn’t until later on, when the current and architecturally stunning church was built, that St. Joseph’s had Catholic founders and a literal Catholic foundation.

Wesleyan College was not only the first women’s college in Macon, but also the first college for women in the world. The women educated at Wesleyan took feminine mystique to a new level as well: The Adelphean Society, the first secret society for women, was founded at the college in 1851, and later became known as Alpha Delta Pi. The second secret society for women, Phi Mu, was also founded at the college.

While boaters and skiers love to relax and have fun on the water at Lake Jackson, you may be surprised to find out that the lake wasn’t originally meant for recreational purposes, but was, in fact, created for an economic boost. Lake Jackson is not a natural wonder but was constructed to be a means of growth for the town of Macon. The lake was created in 1910 to support the area’s need for power.

During the Civil War, only one house was struck by a cannonball during Stoneman’s Raid on Macon in 1864. The house, known as the Cannonball House, is now a historical museum. Tourists and visitors can still see the dent in the hall floor where the cannonball landed.

Many Maconites know the name Sidney Lanier thanks to the Sidney Lanier Cottage, a historical landmark in town, but his memory should be celebrated throughout the state of Georgia. In 1972, on the 130th anniversary of Lanier’s birth, then-Governor Jimmy Carter declared Feb. 3 to be “Sidney Lanier Day in Georgia,” encouraging Georgia residents to read some of Lanier’s masterpieces each year on that day to celebrate his literary legacy.

Country crooning star Jason Aldean almost didn’t get his big break. Born and raised in Macon, the star got his start playing in college towns in the South. He was signed to two record deals and subsequently dropped before finding a manager to help him hit the big time.

Already a Macon history expert? Check out our Atlanta trivia.