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History of Atkinson County, GA

This Georgia county is named for William Yates Atkinson, who served as Governor and Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. Willacoochee is home to McCraine's Turpentine Still, a preserved wood-burning turpentine still of 19th-century design that operated from 1936 to 1942. Atkinson County, created from Clinch and Coffee counties, has a county courthouse that was constructed in 1921. Pearson, was named to honor Benjah Pearson who served in the Indian War of 1838.


The city of Willacoochee is home of the "No Name Bar," fondly referred to by the late Lewis Grizzard in many of his columns.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Pearson was known as the "Chess Capital" of the state. The town hosted four consecutive championships, and Pearson residents made up one-fourth of the membership of the Georgia Chess Association.   Georgia.gov



Atkinson County was formed in 1917 from parts of Coffee and Clinch counties. As of 2000, the population was 7,609. The 2007 Census Estimate placed the population at 8,223. The county seat is Pearson. According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 344.10 square miles (891.2 km2), of which 338.04 square miles (875.5 km2) (or 98.24%) is land and 6.05 square miles (15.7 km2) (or 1.76%) is water.


Cities and towns





   Henderson Still




   Sandy Bottom

Contributed by Sandy Denney

(Atkinson county was formed in 1917 from parts of Coffee and Clinch Counties, so make sure and check out those county sites for data prior to 1917!)

Coffee County was laid off in 1854 out of Irwin, Telfair and Appling. It was named for General John E. Coffee, who had served with great credit in the war of 1812-15, and was afterwards a representative from Georgia in the Congress of the United States (1833-1835). It is bounded by the following counties: Telfair on the north, Appling and Ware on the east, Clinch on the south and Berrien and Irwin on the west. It is watered by the Satilla river and its tributaries, Seventeen Mile Creek, Hog Creek, Big Hurricane and Little Hurricane Creeks. The Ocmulgee also runs along its northern border, and together with some of its tributaries waters that part of the county. Fish are plentiful in the streams. One of the branches of the Plant System of Railways crosses the southern part of the county. The Waycross Air Line connects Douglass, the county site, with the growing city of Waycross in Ware county.
A little to the north of this road the Brunswick and Binningham Railway crosses the county. Altogether there are about 90 miles of railroad in Coffee county and 30 miles of steamboat transportation on the Ocmulgee river. The public roads are being worked under the system provided by the State law.
The lands of this county are gray, except on the borders of the rivers. The productions are cotton, corn, sugar-cane, potatoes and melons. With proper attention peaches do well, and several small vineyards yield grapes of the most luscious varieties. With good cultivation the average yield per acre of the staple crops is: Sea-island cotton, 1,000 pounds; corn, 30 to 40 bushels; sugar-cane, 400 gallons of syrup; Irish potatoes, 75 bushels; sweet potatoes, 200 bushels; crab grass and peavine hay, 4,000 pounds. The lands possess great advantages for peach growing. Pears yield abundantly when not affected by blight
Market gardens can be run very profitably in this county, supplying early vegetables, strawberries and melons of fine quality.
About one-third of the original yellow pine timber is still standing, and unlimited quantities of hard wood timbers of various varieties in the swamps have not yet been touched. Among these are hickory, gum, the varieties of oak, cypress, etc. The annual output is 100,000,000 superficial feet, selling on the average at $10 a thousand feet. The lumber is being cut by six large sawmills, averaging 60,000 feet a day. A dozen or more smaller mills saw about 10,000 feet a day. All these mills are operated by steam. In close connection with the lumber business are 36 turpentine distilleries. The county enjoys an extensive trade in lumber, rosin and turpentine.
The great area still covered by the piney woods gives to the county a good range for sheep, hogs and cattle, in the raising of which there is little expense and much profit. Among the pure bred cattle that have been introduced Jerseys and Holsteins are the favorite cows for butter and milk. Of the 19,489 cattle reported in the census of 1890 there were 509 working oxen and 4,622 milch-cows. By the same census there were 31,212 sheep, with a wool-clip of 66,860 pounds; 52,327 domestic fowls of all kinds, 24,357 swine, 645 horses, 878 mules and 2 donkeys. Some of the farm products were 155,508 gallons of milk, 10,674 pounds of butter, 13,568 pounds of honey and 54,029 dozens of eggs.
There are numerous grist mills in Coffee county.
According to the census of 1900 there were ginned 3,350 bales of sea-island and 19 bales of upland cotton of the crop of 1899.
There are three towns in Coffee county, Douglas, Willacoochee and Pearson, each located in a militia district bearing the name of the town. The population of each of these districts and towns is as follows: of Douglas district, 2,367, and of the town, 617; of the Willacoochee district, 2,754, and of the town, 471; of the Pearson district, 2,307, and of the town, 336.
Douglas, the county site, on the Waycross Air Line Railroad, has a new brick court-house valued at $20,000, and a new jail, also of brick, which cost $8,000. It has a bank with a capital of $30,000, and the new brick building of the Southern Normal Institute, erected at an expense of $6,000, one of tho best schools of its kind in Georgia.
Willacoochee and Pearson are both located on the Brunswick and Western Railroad, one of the lines belonging to the Plant System.
The Methodists and Baptists are the leading Christian denominations and have live churches and flourishing Sunday schools in every town and in nearly every neighborhood.
The schools of Coffee county belong to the public school system of Georgia. There is an average attendance of 1,274 in the 61 schools for whites and of 911 in the 26 schools for negroes. The report of the State School Commissioner for 1900 gives the assessment of Coffee county for school purposes as $8,843.27.
The population of the county by the United States census of 1900 was 16,169, a gain of 5,686 over that of 1890. The total land area is 1,123 square miles, or 718,720 acres.
In the report of the Comptroller-General for 1900 are given the following returns for taxation: Acres of improved land, 530,906; of wild land, 173,324; average value per acre of improved land, $1.35; of wild land, $0.40; value of city or town property, $84,596; shares in bank, $19,675; money and solvent debts, $342,175; merchandise, $105,557; tonnage, $200; cotton factories, $33,500; household and kitchen furniture, $100,169; value of farm, and other animals, $333,644; plantation and mechanical tools, $44,349; watches, jewelry, etc., $6,378; value of all other property, $419,617; real estate, $907,701; personal estate, $1,408,848; aggregate value of whole property, $2,316,549.
Property returned by colored taxpayers: number of acres of land, 27,656; value of land, $36,977; city or town property, $2,276; money and solvent debts, $4,905; merchandise, $100; household and kitchen furniture, $12,914; watches, jewelry, etc., $489; farm and other animals, $19,010; plantation and mechanical tools, $3,070; value of all other property, $2,847; aggregate value of whole property, $82,588.
The tax returns for 1901 show a gain of $154,026 in the value of all property over the returns of 1900.
Population of Coffee county by sex and color, according to the census of 1900: White males, 4,988; white females, 4,570; total whites, 9,558; colored males, 3,657; colored females, 2,954; total colored, 6,611.
Domestic animals in barns and inclosures, not on farms or ranges, in Coffee county, June 1, 1900: 14 calves, 10 steers, 1 bull, 11 dairy cows, 22 horses, 5 mules, 56 swine.
["Georgia, historical and industrial" by O.B. Stevens, Atlanta, Ga. :: G.W. Harrison, state printer,, 1901 - submitted by K. Torp]

Towns, Hamlets and Villages

Town of Willacoochee

Willacoochee was the first town chartered in the area that was to be known later as Atkinson County. An act of the legislature on November 12, 1889, set the limits of the town as "one-half mile each way from the Brunswick and Western Railroad depot in said town." Willacoochee is an Indian name generally believed to mean "Home of the Wildcat." Prior to being known as Willacoochee, the town was named Danielsville after a family residing there.

The first known Mayor was Dr. Jefferson Wilcox in 1891.  Jefferson Wilcox was the first native Coffee Countian to receive a degree of Doctor of Medicine.  (At this time, Willacoochee was still located in Coffee County.)  He graduated from the Southern Medical College in Atlanta in 1883, second in a class of thirty-seven.  On December 1, 1888, he located in Willacoochee and began practicing medicine.  During the Spanish-American War, Dr. Wilcox formed a company of volunteers to fight Cuba; he served as Captain of the group. 

Willacoochee is a city, along the Alapaha River. The population was 1,434 at the 2000 census. The 2006 estimated population for Willacoochee is 1,508. The population for the 31650 ZIP code, which serves Willacoochee, is 3,002.  --Georgia.gov
Submitted by Sandy Denney

Minnie F. Corbitt Museum

The Minnie F. Corbitt Memorial Museum was established in 1955 in the first residence built in Pearson (1873). It is dedicated to the memory of South Georgia pioneers and their way of life.
The first residence in Pearson was built by S. J. Henderson circa 1873 on lot no. 1.  Pearson was then the terminus of the Brunswick & Albany RailRoad.

This home successively became the home of prominent families in early Pearson History.  In 1905 it became the residence of Martin S. Corbitt who was mayor 1905-1906 and Minnie F. Corbitt who was ordinary of Atkinson County 1928-1936.

In 1955, at the request of Mrs. Corbitt and her sons, the house was dedicated by the City of Pearson and the John Floyd Chapter, D A R to the perpetuation of the memory of south Georgia pioneers and their way of life.  – Georgia.gov

Transcribed and Submitted by Sandy Denney



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