Georgia Genealogy Trails

"Where your Journey Begins"

 Bleckley County, Georgia

HISTORICAL SKETCH OF BLECKLEY COUNTY (FORMERLY PULASKI COUNTY)


"Old Longstreet"


"Slowly westward the course of empire takes its way." Ask almost any native hereabout where his people came from before they moved into Georgia and the answer will be. "Virginia. North Carolina, or South Carolina."

These three states grandmothered, or grandfathered, practically the whole South, and a large percentage of the Middle West.

The gates of entry into our section of Middle Georgia seemed to be five or six shoal by fords or ferries on the Oconee River between Milledgeville and Dublin, and the Indian trails leading from them seemed all to converge towards the most accessible crossing of the Ocmulgee over its shoal water at Old Hartford, in the whole stretch between Macon and the river mouth.

The Old Hartford main trail, leaving the river, soon spangles out into about six others:

"The Up-River Road" towards Macon; "The Down-River Road" towards Eastman; "The Chicken Road" towards Dubois; "The Oochee Road" towards Cochran and Dublin; "The Ball's Ferry Road" towards Sandersville and Augusta; "The Hartford Road" proper, or "The Federal Stage and Post Road" towards Jeffersonville. Irwinton, and Milledgeville.

This last-named road also became a military road, and along it moved Georgia militia, and the few federal troops available, to Old Hartford, in 1812. to withstand the invasion of Middle Georgia by British and Seminole enemies.

General Andrew Jackson used either this road or the "Up-River Road" in February, 1818, on his way to punish the Seminoles.

Coming down the Ocmulgee from Old Fort Hawkins, he took either "The Federal Stage and Post Road" through old Longstreet. or the upper river road, he does not make clear which.

As he camped a week at the Manning Phillips place, a mile and a half this side of the southern mouth of the upper river road, he would have been "back trailing" on his objective, the Hartford crossing; and "Old Hickory" did not back trail.

Probably one of the first settlers in this section was a Revolutionary soldier, George Walker II, whose father, George Walker, settled in Burke County in 1756. He built his home near Shellstone Creek about 1806, slightly before Pulaski was made a county, when land grants were made. I have some 1.808 gubernatorial grants in my line of title, derived from the Walkers.

George Walker's four sons, George HI, David, Charles, and Thomas, built their homes on a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of road on the "Federal Stage and Post Road," one mile east of their father's settlement, and this three and a half miles became known as "Longstreet,"

George Walker III built near the Twiggs County line. About three-quarters of a mile down the road was David's home. His son, David, surveyed the town of Cochran when it was laid off in streets, and his son, J. A. Walker, is now postmaster of Cochran. Another son. Dr. Thomas Duhart Walker, became Bleckley County's member of the House of Representatives.

He was one of the original founders of the Baptist College upon the hill where the Middle Georgia College now stands. He was also most active in having this property converted to the use of the Middle Georgia College. He leaves a number of descendants in Cochran.

In fact, take the Longstrceters out of Cochran, and there would be several big holes. Great people, those old pioneers of the early nineteenth century.

The first house south of the Twiggs County line now was built by Mr. Walker Jordan on the ashes of his grandfather's residence.

Next below was the Reverend George R. McCall residence.

A hundred yards away is the Longstreet Methodist Church, organized by Charles Walker, Charles Edward Taylor, and their Methodist neighbors. Charles Walker gave two acres of land for this church and a school building.

Directly opposite the Methodist Church was built the Old Long-street Academy, famous in days gone by for the people who taught there: Rev. George R. McCall, W. C. Singleton, John Brantley, Moses McCall, and others.

The next house was the residence of Charles Walker. When he moved to Alabama he sold to Dred Griffin, who later sold to Timothy Mason. Timothy Mason was interested in the stage lines from Tallahassee to Milledgeville. the only passenger and mail carriers between the two State capitals. His two daughters. Miss Ella and Miss Julia, conducted a young ladies' finishing school in that old residence. Mr. Mason's daughter. Miss Callie. married Burwell Jordan. Another daughter married Mr. Walker Jordan, who afterwards became, while living at Longstreet, one of Pulaski's two representatives in the General Assembly. He it was who first put the convicts on the public roads in the county, one might say, at the risk of his life; for I have been told that in some of the districts ihe new system of road repair was so unpopular that the first chain gang approach was met with shotguns.

And now, according to Commissioner Ralph Peacock, it means shotguns if the gang does not come. How we do hate the new before we know it; and how we love it as soon as we become acquainted.

Mr. Jordan's present wife is Miss Caroline Tarver. granddaughter of one of those Virginians who settled just across Shellstone Creek from the old Pulaski County line, in Twiggs, General Hartwell Tarver. He did not live at Old Longstreet, but it was all one community of neighbors hereabout, even if it was Twiggs. The General is buried in the old rock-walled cemetery about a hundred yards from where I write. Historic landmarks among these old red hills, that remind us of the days of their glory, long gone.

The next house south of the Mason place, which is now the home of Mr. John J. Purser, was the old Beaton place. This house, a two-foot thick basement, floored with home-burned brick, has two stories above of fat pitch pine, cemented and plastered with home-burned shell rock from shellstone exposures, roofed with home-drawn pine shingles. It is a magnificent old structure, built by Charles Edward Taylor, the father and grandfather of all the Cochran Taylors, and Whit Taylor of Hawkinsville.

Next below, almost in front, was the home of Mrs. Betsy Walker Wimberly Jordan, daughter of George Walker III, whose place was later the property of Judge Richard Jordan of Macon, former Hawkinsville boy, born at Old Longstreet.

South of that is the house built by Thomas Walker, and inherited home of his son. Dr. Frank Walker, until he moved to Cochran. He was called by Cochran people "our most beloved citizen." This place has for practically half a century belonged to Captain B. E. Barksdale and his daughter, Mrs. R. C. Sanders. Captain Barksdale, of the Wilkes and Warren County Barksdales, was one of those rare gentlemen whom everybody liked to call friend, so helpful and generous was he to his neighbors, both white and colored. He was Pulaski's chosen member of the House of Representatives, but died before he could take his seat.

Evenbodv in ihe two counties remembers Professor R. C. Sanders as the great school principal in both Hawkinsville and Cochran for long years, and as County School Commissioner for Pulaski, while Bleckley was still of the family circle.

The next old "fo-de-wah" house was the residence of Judge George W. Jordan, father of "Walker" and "Dick" and "Lee," all of them long identified with the county's main interests. Judge Jordan's first wife was a daughter of George Walker HI. In 1881 he moved to Hawkinsville.

I told "you-all" above that take out the Old Longstreeters and there would be some big holes in Cochran, and Hawkinsville would have had quite a number also.

On down the road half a mile or so, between the forks of Evergreen Creek, is old Evergreen Baptist Church, whose roll covered more than half of the old Longstreeters of yore. And there were the names of negro slaves in the roster, too; for, "in the olden times" the negroes worshipped in the same church as their masters. The negro gallery is still a part of Old Evergreen.

According to historical accounts of this community. Evergreen was originally constituted as Mt. Horeb, at the present Centenary Church site, and two years later. 1846, moved to its present site. It was given the name "Evergreen" because of the many beautiful water oaks that surround it. George Walker III gave the large Bible that is still used at church services, and his wife gave a silver communion service.

The name Bollinger has always been associated with Evergreen Church. The pioneer ancestor of this family has descendants still residents at Longstreet, and are members of Evergreen. From the home of George Walker III, near the Twiggs line, to Evergreen Church, was considered "Longstreet," that noted country community.

Professor Morgan Wynne lived on the sandy knoll of land just south of the south fork of Evergreen Creek, and taught school in a house across the road from his residence. He has many descendants prominent in Cochran and other towns.

The last old residence before reaching Coley Station going south was built by John Abercrombie Drake Coley I and was later the home of his son, J. A. D. Coley, Jr.I. "Big John Coley." his neighbors called him. A mile away, on the present Cochran to Macon State Highway No. 87, lived his hrother. Laish Coley; while a few hundred yards farther towards Cochran lived their brother-in-law. who for many years was tax collector of Bibb County.

Coley Station was named for "Big John Coley," who gave the land for the station site, when the old Macon & Brunswick Railroad reached that point in construction.

All of these planters at Longstreet had their cotton gins, their commissaries, their negro "quarters," their cotton presses, and other paraphernalia for self-sufficient living.

They were small independent principalities, unique and resembling nothing so much as the old feudal estates of the British Norman conquerors, from whom many of these "Old Marsters" were indeed descended. But now, their civilization is gone, perhaps forever.

I trust that it will not be thought that I have singled out this man, George Walker III, to glorify at the expense of any other. These are my sole reasons for the selection:

1. He was leader in his own community, acknowledged of men;

2. He was a type of those dauntless pioneers, whose exhaustless energy, up-and-doing intelligence and foresight, seized upon and even forestalled any and every opportunity, any invention that promised better living conditions for himself, for his principality, and for his community. He and his kind built the agricultural empire that was Georgia.

3. I have lived in the waning shadows of his achievements for many years, and am, in a sense, George Walker's heir, as are many others besides myself in this community.

Due to his long-headed foresight, these red hills and plateaus that I live upon are the most splendid soil, instead of the scarred and gullied Georgia hillsides whose profitable soils long ago washed down to the Atlantic.

Due to his wise system of terracing these hillsides with ditches of but slight fall, emptying into main drains, these soil-covered slopes were themselves covered with a forest of pines, which at last have become of value to myself and to the community.

Old Joe Walker, his colored body servant, told me that he carried the chain, or "toted" "Ole Marster's" compass while he was laying off these terraces. Joe once showed me a ditch in a creek swamp, and said to me, "Ole Marster used to say 'that swamp would bog a duck before I had that ditch cut*."

Those big creek drains are still open to a large extent, in spite of dead trees falling into them. They drain the soil so well they can still be cultivated; his old rice pond could still be used. The stones that covered parts of these slopes were piled at his command, sometimes higher than one's head, so that the plows may even now go through and between without a break.

Heir to George Walker? I sold some of those piles for rip-rap work to the State Highway. Why? Just because George Walker had them piled, and made them easy to get.

Over here on the State Highway, about a mile to the south, they have buill a marble shaft to his memory, the best we poor humans can do, of course, when we would honor the dead; but these are not his real monuments.

His real monuments are what he has contributed to his community, his pioneer sawmills, and grist mill, and flour mill, his first cotton gin, when his neighbors had none, those fine English Devons, and there were those Merino rams, and those Spanish jacks, with which he sought to improve the stock of his community. Colonel John Fort, authority on artesian wells, said he was the first man in Georgia to bore for artesian water.

There was the Longstreet Academy which he helped to build, and Evergreen Church, which was built largely upon his initiative. He won a silver cup at the Macon fair for the best hempen rope, made by himself out of hemp grown on his own place. I have seen my own father do the same rope making, when I was a child just out of skirts.

With all the reverence that is in my soul, I bow before these early pioneer men and women of heroic mold, who braved the wilderness, the wild beast, the savage, and dread disease and death, to create a civilization that is perishing off the earth because of our degeneration from their high constructive endeavor.

Cochran

The town of Cochran lies on the edge of the great pine forest that extended from here to the coast.I am told that Burwell B. Dykes owned all the land between Cochran and Coley Station. He was the man who, according to the numerous deeds involving .town lots recorded in the Clerk's office, owned all Cochran. He himself lived a mile from Coley Station, south of the Beaver Dam Creek.Jim Clark was the first Rural Route carrier from Longstreet post office at Coley Station to Twiggsville. the half-way post office on the old star route from Longstreet to Jeffersonville.

Like many other American towns. Cochran was railroad-born. After the first lines went through in Georgia, the State went railroad crazy. And the craze never receded till the automobile became common.

The Macon & Brunswick Railroad Company was chartered March 1, 1836, and the work of construction was begun in Macon some years later, though just when the line reached Cochran is uncertain, according to a letter just received from Mr. Guy E. Mauldin, assistant secretary to the President of the Southern Railway.

II was before 1866, however, fin ho says that they had the line in operation all the way from Macon to the Ocmulgee at Hawkinsville: and by 1871, it was in operation to Brunswick.

Hartwell Blackshear, probably the oldest colored man in Cochran, says that he came to Cochran in 1866, and that the road was then in operation to Hawkinsville, and they told him that the road did not get any farther south than Coley Station till some time during the war. He worked on the road as a section hand for two years, while they were building towards Brunswick, under the Reverend Arch Harris, under a Mr. Goff, and two or three others.

A Captain Mallary was supervisor, and perhaps after him Mr. Bush Raiford. Judge P. T. McGriff was probably the first railroad agent.

Dr. Yancy H. Morgan, whose two daughters still live in Cochran, had the first drug store. Dr. Morgan was one of Pulaski's representatives in the General Assembly, and was one of Cochran's fore-most citizens. His wife was Miss Weaver, daughter of one of Cochran's first storekeepers, when Cochran was Dykesboro.

Mr. James Martin of Cochran District, one of the few old residents, gave me several bits of information about Cochran in its early days. "Uncle Jim," as he is known, lost his father in the war, and his mother married Mr. James Coody. His first memory of Cochran was when, just before the War Between the States, he went to town with his grandfather, George Martin, who, with Joe Haskins and Bill Allen, owned an enormous part of the land below Cochran. He was just large enough to hang on to grandpa's coat-tails, and was scared almost to death at the fighting going on around the stores.

What is now the main street of Cochran was then just a country road leading to the station, and the stores were then on the opposite side of the railroad from the present store region. Frank Ryle had a store and the post office was in a corner of it. Ranse Sirmons and a Mr. Weaver also had stores. People came into town in those days in horse carts, two wheeled. They had no wagons and no buggies.

There was a big pond below the station, and another somewhere about the oil mill site, and the road, now Second Street, ran through a gallberry thicket, and some man named Lamb, from above Cochran, was noted for the deer that he killed in that gallberry thicket.

Mr. Martin remembers what a furore of astonishment it caused when P. L. Peacock and James Oberry bought, just about the end of the War Between the States, 1.900 acres of land in one body for the then munificent price of about a dollar an acre—land absolutely covered with long-leaf pines. It was where Lewis Thompson now lives.  Land sold then for 25 to 50 cents the acre.

And a still greater marvel to the natives was the turpentine still they erected, right in there, a little nearer the railroad.

Albert Peacock, father of Col. Nance Peacock, put up the first turpentine still in the Stale of Georgia. He came from North Carolina, settled in ihis vicinity, and built a still down on the Satilla River, but had to abandon the project because of the impossible transportation of the region. He returned to North Carolina, and after the railroad was built moved to the vicinity of Yonkers.

Years ago Bob Bowen told me that when he came back from the War Belween the States he plowed barefooted for nearly a year, and was paid for that service with a whole lot of Wilcox County land, 202 acres, which was then considered liberal pay. Such trades made him rich in the years to come, for its pines later became a fortune.

Choate Brothers had both a store and a woodwork shop some years later, and McPhail also had a later store.

The first church was a union of Baptist and Methodist, the sites for both the church house and the public school being donated by David Dykes, son of Burwell. The location of the school is the same as the high school.

The Baptists eventually sold out to the Methodists, who retained the ownership of the present site, while the Baptists built a wooden church at their present location. Both Baptists and Methodists now have handsome brick edifices.

The first brick building in Cochran was the present post office, and that whole block was owned by Mr. Charles Mullis. Maas brothers had a general merchandise store, and later a cotton ware-house.

Tom McVay established the first cotton warehouse in the town and bought the first bale of cotton ever sold there.

Giles Wright, father of Mrs. Mack Thompson, w*as the most enthusiastic promoter of the Ebenezer Baptist College, which preceded the A. & M. and the Middle Georgia. It was a religion with him to get that college. Others almost equally energetic were the Rev. P. A. Jessup, Dr. T. D. Walker, W. J. Mullis. P. L. Peacock. J. E. Oberry, Mrs. W. H. Wiggs, and perhaps others, and a Mr. Parker of McRae. These schools have gone far to build up Cochran's educational outlook.

Mrs. Mollie Woolen had the first real hotel. Col. James A. Thomas kept the old Daisy House. His son became a Colonel in the World War, and died en route to France.

Dr. Carroll also built a hotel, and later John Blount and his uncle, Mills Blount, built the present hotel of brick.

About 1898 the first bank was established.   It was promoted by Mr. Clarke from Ashburn, and local capital. Mr. Clarke was the first cashier. Two years later this became the Cochran Banking Company.

Thr First National Bank was located where Thompson's Cafe is. Col. Vance Peacock was cashier when he was elected lo the Slate Senate.

The Peacocks, the Thompsons, the Mullises, the Walkers, and the Taylors. E. Cook. Sr., and a half dozen, maybe a dozen, other indi-viduals, were interested in all the various enterprises of the com-munity: the Cochran Banking Company, the First National Bank, the Cochran Oil Mill & Ginnery, the Cochran Cotton Mill, the ware-houses, and several other businesses, all of which made up Cochran's climb from a scattering group of country stores to a pretty good old town, or, as one fellow told me years ago, "a noble city."

Recurring to the railroad topic again, Mrs. Mary Eloise Cochran Jones Taylor says that her uncle. Judge Arthur Cochran, was the chief promoter of the project to connect Macon with ihe seacoast, the first idea being to have Darien the terminal. Later, Brunswick was selected, and the road called Macon & Brunswick; after that for years, the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia; and still later, when reorganized by the Morgan banking interests, the Southern Railway.

Judge Cochran was one of the first presidents of the M. & B., and after some delay the village of Dykesboro became, in his honor, Cochran.

The aforesaid Secretary Mauldin is unable to slate why the line was not built on the west side of the Ocmulgee, unless it was decided to be a shorter reach over the present route.

It is said that George Walker III of Longstreet heard that there was a balky leader of men at Hawkinsville whose influence would not let the required subscription of several thousands be raised, and he thereupon consulted his neighbors who. along wilh him. promptly raised the money, and the road was diverted to the route by Coley Station.

The Schofield Iron Works took over a gin and warehouse in Cochran, with several thousand bales of cotton, and manufactured the cotton here. They hulled the cotton seed and threw the hulls away. They sacked and sold the kernels.

B. J. Wynne helped to pile the lumber that was sawed out of the pines on Cochran's main business street, and now that slreel is paved for its whole two miles.

By all this community gossip of the ancient village, I have tried to present you a living contrast from gallberry patch to a paved highway. Not so bad. when, a hundred and thirty years ago, it was the haunt of the wild beast and the trail of the red man. Joel T. Deese.

Source: History of Pulaski County, Georgia : official history. Atlanta, Ga.: Press of W.W. Brown Pub. Co., c1935.



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