2010-09-15 / Front Page

Martha Berry, peanuts, and a crossroad

Berry photo which hung in Hoover home when Mrs. Dozier was a child. Berry photo which hung in Hoover home when Mrs. Dozier was a child. The legacy of Martha Berry, the founder of Berry College in Rome, Ga., is alive today and includes the dedication of U.S. 27 in Georgia as the Martha Berry Highway. A little known fact, however, is that “peanuts” helped her build the school.

Uniquely, since 1936 a “Martha” named for Martha Berry has lived only a few miles from the highway named for Miss Berry, down the Edison- Bluffton Road north of Blakely.

A 23-page booklet Martha Dozier’s father wrote about “knowing Martha Berry” recounts a train trip Miss Berry made to visit Henry Ford in hopes of soliciting him as a donor for the school.

Mr. Ford took a bag of raw peanuts from his desk and said “go do something with these.”

A year later she returned with bags and bags full of peanuts. Ford was won over and helped build the huge grey stone block Berry buildings that today are the hallmark of Berry College.

Martha Dozier Martha Dozier Dozier’s father, Hoyte Ray Hoover, wrote the booklet for her to read to her Georgia History students when she began teaching in Morgan in 1956. The booklet, written on onion skin paper is almost faded today.

Mrs. Dozier continued teaching Georgia History and became a “founding teacher” at Southwest Georgia Academy in 1970.

Mrs. Dozier’s father’s people had come to America from Switzerland and migrated to “Hoover Gap” a mountain valley near Murfresboro, Tenn.

At age 14, he was put on a train and sent to “Berry School.” The school had been first developed in a cabin in the woods where Martha Berry found poor children who barely had enough food and clothes to ward off the North Georgia mountain cold.

Once when Ford was visiting the college, he wanted to go down to Atlanta. Knowing newspaper and radio reporters would overwhelm his car, Miss Berry called a student to “sly him out the back gate.”

That young man called his buddy, Martha’s father, to make the trip and got him a blind date in Atlanta who turned out to be “my mom!” — Nellie Ruth Sanders who had grown up near what is known today as Sutton’s Crossing because of a cotton gin built in the area in the early 1900s.

“I could hear the gin pounding two miles away when I stayed with my K.N. Sanders grandparents,” Mrs. Dozier recalled. “It’s been gone years ago along with the name of Warren Sutton.”

Hoyte Ray Hoover graduated from Berry School and received a degree in literature and journalism from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.

He returned to Berry College and established a printing press for Miss Berry and produced the college’s first catalogue.

“At one point in time, he was picking up Miss Berry from a ‘Dogwood’ tea party and I went along! I can remember sitting in the back seat of a black T-model Ford,” Dozier stated. “Miss Berry took off a corsage of tiny pink sweetheart roses and asparagus fern she was wearing and pinned it on me. I kept the dried corsage in a trunk until it almost turned to dust.”

“When I was born in 1930, I was named for Martha Berry. My middle name is Annette after my grandmother, Annie Estelle Sanders — the two greatest women in the world to me.”

“I will always remember Martha Berry because I was named for her and because she inspired me to be a devoted teacher.”

In 1954 she and her husband, Wayne Dozier, bought Three Springs Ranch from Henry and R.H. Hoover who owned the vacuum cleaner company.

It was from there that Martha Hoover Dozier launched her teaching career, inspired by the real Martha Berry — making the crossroad north of Blakely a unique spot along the Martha Berrry Highway.

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