Mills Lane IV had colorful characters on both sides of his family. These stories take us into his mother’s side, and since it is the week of the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to use a picture of a house with a flag.
His parents, Mills Lane, Jr. and Anne, tended to renovate neighborhoods rather than just individual houses as they worked to improve the fabric of Savannah. So on the map showing the Lane family work in the Landmark Historic District, the single dot on Chippewa Square was something of an anomaly.
The plaque at 3 W. Perry St. posts that master carpenter Joseph R. Thompson built the house in 1831. That much everyone seems to agree on, but the big type on the sign describes it as the home of Dr. James Johnson Waring from 1864 to 1915.
That information shows the connection to Anne Waring Lane. She was the niece of Dr. James Johnson Waring, her father Dr. Antonio J. Waring’s younger brother. But Anne’s uncle was born in 1883 and died in Denver, Colorado, in 1962. While at some point he might have lived in the six bedroom house that had been enlarged in 1839 and 1874, it seems unlikely that he bought it 19 years before he was born.
Then there is Dr. James Johnston (Johnston with a ‘t’) Waring who was born in Savannah in 1829 and died in 1888. He is Anne’s great uncle (her father’s uncle) and was perhaps an early owner of the house.
He had left Savannah to teach medicine in Washington D.C. and was called upon to be a surgeon for the Confederacy, according to a biographical sketch written by F.T. Hambrecht and J.L. Koste about Confederate medical personnel. In 1862 he was relieved of his duties for undescribed “misconduct.” Those charges were dismissed.
But back in Savannah after the war, Dr. James Johnston Waring was expelled from the Medical Society of Savannah in 1869 “for providing surety on the bonds of people of color who were charged with riotous conduct.”
In Civil War Savannah: Savannah, Immortal City, Waring was given credit for playing “a courageous role immediately after the war by supporting the right of elected black officials to hold office.”
In 1869 the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the expulsion from the Medical Society, and Waring became a leader in public health in Savannah “by promoting drainage of swamps and installation of a sewer system,” according to Hambrecht and Koste. He was buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in 1888.
Then there are the Yale records that show additional Waring ties to the house. The War Record and Record of Quindecennial Reunion by Yale University class of 1903 shows Anne Waring Lane’s father, Dr. Antonio Johnston Waring, living at 3 W. Perry St. in 1938.
No wonder Anne Waring Lane was interested in renovating the house in the 1970s. I just wish she had left clear notes about who had lived in it. My recommendation for all parents is to give children their own names and save the following generations much confusion.
The Warings and Lanes have been an integral part of Savannah for centuries and there are many more stories, as soon as I figure them out.
Rexanna Keller Lester is working on a book about Mills Bee Lane IV and his preservation legacy.
For more on architecture and the history of the South, click on the “Books” tab at the top of the page.