LENOX -- James D. Kinard has finally been recognized for his part in founding the city of Lenox. The Lenox Christian Fellowship Church recently dedicated its children's church to Kinard's memory. And granddaughter Pat Kinard Wiley couldn't be happier.
Kinards have lived in Lenox since the late 1700s, when the town was still part of Berrien County, before the establishment of Cook County. Back then it was hardly more than a pine forest.
James Richard Kinard has been credited with founding the city, although the city didn't receive its official charter until 1901.
The town had its beginnings when Kinard donated about 50 acres of land to the the Georgia, Southern and Florida Railroad Company.
"When the railroad wanted to come here, they wouldn't come unless somebody [would] give them the land," Wiley said. "So my grand daddy gave them the south side [of his property].
Although Wiley doesn't know how much land her grandfather started out with, she said that much of the land was sold or given away. Today the Kinard family owns very little of its original land -- no more than a few acres, including the Union Road house that Wiley currently lives in.
"If you bought one lot to build a house on, he'd give you the next lot to it. He didn't sell it, he gave it away."
Wiley, 73, and a lifelong resident of Lenox can virtually transport people back in time with her memory of times gone by in the town.
She remembers when cars were a novelty and small family-owned stores flourished. She remembers when beer parlors were common in the 1940s and when people could go to the movies, get snacks and still have change left from a quarter.
"It's changed a lot," Wiley said. "There's not many stores in town. People have a ways to go to the supermarkets and the J.C. Penney. It looks like a little dead town. But there's a lot that goes on here. "
One noticeable change for Wiley is the hotel the took the place of her family's home.
Her grandfather, affectionately known as "Uncle Rich" by the townspeople, didn't just deal with land. He was also a store owner. He frequently extended credit to farmers, until his store burned. He also established the town's first church around 1910 -- First Baptist Church. The church still stands today.
He was not only a good citizen, but a family man as well--At least that's how Wiley sees him. She remembers him as a gentle man with his grandchildren and a man of honor. He was a Christian man who believed in helping his neighbors.
"He was one of the finest men I've ever known," she said. "He really believed in doing the right thing, treating everybody right."
Wiley is thrilled about the town's recognition of her grandfather.
"We felt that he needs some recognition in this town for the early years of this town."
To contact reporter Marie Arrington, call 382-4321, ext. 206.
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