Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fort Elmo Land (1878-1927)

Portrait from the Annual Report of the Georgia Department of Education, 1915

   With a name that brings to mind a Sesame Street themed amusement park, the humorously named Fort Elmo Land served as the Georgia State Superintendent of Education from 1925-1927 before his untimely death at age 49. I first discovered the name of Fort E. Land in my school library, listed in the Who Was Who In America, 1897-1942 edition. The brief biography allotted to him in said book amounted to just a few lines, and ten years after his discovery, information on Mr. Land is still difficult to come by. The facts mentioned in the following write-up were located mainly in the aforementioned Who Was Who in America.
   Fort Elmo Land was born in Twigg County, Georgia on June 30, 1878, being the son of Henry Freeman and Mona Land. He graduated from Emory College in Atlanta, Georgia in the class of 1901 and two years later was named as Superintendent of Schools for Cordele, Georgia, serving in this post until 1908. Land was later named to the superintendent position in the town schools of Sparks, Lyons and Dawson, Georgia. 
  Land married on March 6, 1912, in Dawson, Georgia to Ms. Susie Barrows Gurr (1876-1950), and their union produced one son, Fort Elmo Land Jr. (1920-1945).  An officer with the U.S. Navy during WWII, Fort E. Land Jr. was killed in action in 1945 when the "Hellcat fighter" aircraft he was piloting crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a training run.

Fort Elmo Land (and his misspelled name) from the Zodiac Yearbook from Emory College, 1901.

   Throughout his short life Land was heavily involved in all aspects of Georgia educational affairs, becoming the Georgia State Supervisor of Rural Schools in 1912. He served in that capacity for eight years, and soon after was named as State Director of Vocational Education, serving until 1925. That same year he was elected as the Georgia State Superintendent of Education. 
   Shortly before his death Land was sworn in for a second term as state superintendent and served as Georgia's chief educational officer until his death at age 49 on July 25, 1927. Newspapers of the time mention that Land developed a very serious illness during his tenure in office, and one in particular (the Oconee Enterprise) gives notice that his death was caused by "an illness of six weeks resulting from an attack of ptomaine poisoning". Shortly after his passing Land was interred at the Sunnyside Cemetery in the town of Cordele in Crisp County, Georgia. His wife Susie survived him by over two decades, dying in 1950 at age 74.
    Following his untimely passing Fort E. Land was memorialized in the Enterprise as "winning the esteem and confidence in the communities he served", and had made "an unusually efficient record in civilian rehabilitation work of the federal and state departments of education.The rare portrait of him shown above was discovered in a Georgia state education Annual Report, published in the early 1920s.

You Can Help!
  I am currently trying to gather more information on Fort Elmo Land and need your assistance! Information has proven to be very difficult to come by, so if any readers, amateur historians, possible descendants or Facebook friends want an interesting project to fill their time with, see what you can dig up on this curiously named Georgia resident!

1 comment:

  1. He is my great uncle by marriage to my great aunt Susan V. Barrow. Susan was a widow with 2 children when he married her. Those children are Frances Gurr McLanahan and Thomas Gurr Junior.