McMillan Bricks at Andalusia

Andalusia has many interesting architectural and design elements around the farm, but one that that visitors comment on the most are the McMillan bricks on the front steps. These brick steps have been under a bit of a spotlight over the years since they are prominently featured in many photographs of Flannery, Regina, and their visitors sitting or standing on the steps. This post gives some information about the background of the maker of these bricks and his business in an effort to situate Andalusia within the wider history of Milledgeville and Baldwin County, where the farm is located.

Flannery O’Connor and a group of students from Mercer University on the front steps. Andalusia Collection 2019.1.193

James Wilson McMillan, usually styled as J. W. McMillan, was the founder of a notable brick company in Milledgeville, Georgia, in the late nineteenth century. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 5, 1850, McMillan immigrated to the United States around 1868 when he was eighteen years old and settled in Philadelphia.[1] In 1873, he moved to Madison, Georgia, and then to Milledgeville sometime during the late 1870s or early 1880s, where clay for the bricks was more plentiful. He bought out an existing brick company owned by Daniel Caraker and started Milledgeville Brick Works, also sometimes referred to as McMillan Brick Works.[2] The operation stood on the banks of the Oconee River within the area of the Oconee River Greenway, a modern-day local park. The Greenway’s website mentions that although the buildings and equipment are gone, you can still see depressions along the river from where the clay pits were dug as well as the existence of where the small railroad sat that carried bricks to and from the six large kilns on the site.[3]

Image courtesy: Cultural Resources Survey, Oconee River Greenway, Baldwin County, Georgia. TRV Project #47500, June 2005.

According to McMillan’s great-grandson, Bob McMillan, Milledgeville Brick Works was one of the largest workforces in Baldwin County and employed a large number of African American men who were looking for jobs.[4] These workers operated  six kilns and allowed the brickworks to put out around 2,000 bricks in a single day. Being such a large operation, Milledgeville Brick Works was able to produce bricks for many of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century structures in the Milledgeville area, both public buildings and private residences. These include such examples as the Old Baldwin County Courthouse, built in 1886 and now owned by Georgia College and State University, as well as the First Presbyterian Church on South Wayne Street, the Jones Building at Central State Hospital, and Vinson Hall which served as the main barracks for Georgia Military College on Greene Street. While the barracks were demolished to make way for GMC’s new K-12 classroom building, many of these buildings are still in use today with their original bricks, showing how well-made McMillan’s product was.[5]

Of course, the McMillan bricks with which the staff at Andalusia are most concerned are the ones making up the front steps of the main house on the farm. A set of seven shallow, brick steps lead up to the door of the screened-in porch. Most of the bricks are plain, but here and there is a brick that is stamped with “McMillan, Milledgeville,” a detail that is still so highly visible today that many visitors ask about it when exploring the porch. Since everything we know about the house tells us the original structure is from the antebellum period, these brick steps were likely used to replace previous steps sometime after the house was built, but before Flannery took up residence there. There is also a brick path that leads from the front steps to the driveway that has long been buried by grass and soil that is likely made of the same McMillan brick.

In 1925, J. W. McMillan developed a “throat affliction,” and according to one of his obituaries, “The administration of physicians and loved ones failed to stay the disease and he gradually yielded to the grim reaper,” on December 16, 1925.[6] His death occurred just several months after Flannery was born on March 25 in Savannah, Georgia. Although she never met him, Flannery likely would have heard her relatives and older Milledgeville residents speak of McMillan since he was considered a prominent citizen and a very charitable, generous man. He was said to have been, “always pleasant and affable in his relation with his fellow man, discussing any question which might arise intelligently and forcefully, and relating an anecdote most interestingly, which was always made more so by his Scotch accent.”[7] McMillan was so important and well-known in the city that Mayor J.H. Ennis even determined that all businesses should close their shops during the hour of McMillan’s funeral out of respect.[8] Milledgeville Brick Works was run by one of McMillan’s sons until the 1940s when World War II caused a lack of supplies and workers.[9]

The bricks at Andalusia proudly tie the farm into the history of Milledgeville and Baldwin County. Many local workers made their own impact on the farm, but McMillan’s is proudly featured on the front of the house. Since these bricks have not been made since the 1940s, they are now a precious resource to be treasured. Just as they were in Flannery’s day, these steps continue to be a popular spot for photos, and we encourage everyone to capture their own memories on the historic steps when visiting Andalusia.

A view of the “MC MILLAN MILLEDGEVILLE, GA.” stamp on the bricks of Andalusia’s front steps.

[1] “Mr. J.W. McMillan Passed Away Early Last Wednesday Morning,” Milledgeville Recorder, December 17, 1925,

[2] “History,” Internet Archive Way Back Machine, June 1, 2013,

[3] “History at the Greenway,” Oconee River Greenway, Accessed May 14, 2020,

[4] Scott Teague, “Family’s Legacy Lives in Milledgeville’s Foundations,” The Union-Recorder, May 3, 2008,

[5] “History.”

[6] “Mr. J.W. McMillan Passed Away Early Last Wednesday Morning.”

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Teague, “Family’s Legacy Lives in Milledgeville’s Foundations.”

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