Fitzgerald, a new town in Irwin county was founded by colonists from the northwestern states through the agency of Ex-Gov. W. J. Northen. It is located at the junction of two branches of the Atlantic & Birmingham railway and was incorporated in 1896. Although founded in the woods it has by 1900 grown into a thriving little city with a population of 1,817 in the corporate limits of 2,515 in the entire district. The population is now (1905) estimated at over 3,000 in the corporate limits alone. Fitzgerald has electric lights and water works worth $45,000 all paid for and owned by the city, three banks, a money order post office, with rural free delivery, express and telegraph offices and many prosperous mercantile establishments enjoying a good trade. Of about 8,000 bales of cotton received and shipped from the county 5,000 are handled in Fitzgerald. There are also one wagon factory and three sash and blind factories. School and church privileges of the highest order are enjoyed by the citizens.
[Source]: Georgia: Sketches, Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions & People, Vol. 2, Publ. 1906 Transcribed By: Maggie Coleman.
Fitzgerald Public Schools-The public school system of Fitzgerald, as now constituted, was inaugurated Jan. 1, 1898, under the charter adopted in 1897. The first board of education was composed of W. H. Marston, E. S. Childs, E. Towne, D. B. Jay, D. T. Paulk, C. E. Becker, J. W. Turner, and J. Baughman. Prof. James Saunders was the first superintendent, with a corps of nine teachers. Prof. M. D. Miller succeeded him in 1899, to be in turn succeeded by the present incumbent, Prof. W. H. Klepper, in 1904, who held the position until his death on May 30, 1906.
The board of education has always been composed of representative business and professional men, and for the year 1906 is as follows: President, Hon. W. H. Marston, postmaster, who is serving his eighth year on the board; vice-president, C. P. McMillan, tinner, who is likewise serving his eighth year; Clerk, Dr. L. S. Osborne, seventh year on the board; and Dr. J. H. Twyman, dentist, sixth year on the board; C. H. Gill, machinist, second year on the board; J. H. Hicks, retired; W. B. Moore, real estate; and J. C. Glover, hardware merchant.
The system is composed of three primary, four grammar, four high-school and two commercial grades. The Latin-scientific course is sufficiently comprehensive to accredit the high school to the state university. The commercial course is thorough and included everything needed to fit the graduates to fill any business position. In the near future will be added to the high-school curriculum a two-years normal training course for teachers and a preparatory course for those pupils who have been unable to obtain the advantages of a public school until beyond school age.
This will give Fitzgerald educational facilities equal to any outside the largest cities of the state. Since the opening of the “Colony City” its school system, with free tuition and free text books, has always been the pride of the people, and never has it been more worthy of this appreciation then in the year 1906, when the schools have a total enrollment of 950, with fifteen teachers.
[Source]: Georgia: Sketches, Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions & People, Vol. 2, Publ. 1906 Transcribed By: Maggie Coleman.
THE NATIONAL MECCA!
It Is Located at the New Colony City of Fitzgerald, Down Among the Pines of South Georgia.
AN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Is the True Outcome of This Mighty Project, and Its Perfect Development---Means Wealth and Prosperity for the South. A Glorious Country.
The conditions that confront one on all sides at this point furnish a broader interpretation to the term "New South." Who can say that this movement of new forces to Georgia—this joining of the kindred blood of the North, West and South on broader lines of industrial development is not the commencement of a new era in our national life? Here among the pines of south Georgia may be the starting point of a new economic departure, which in its far-reaching effect and results will make us the regnant nation of the world and the arbiter of its trade and commerce.
The Southern people, and the people of Georgia especially, in the years since 1865 have challenged the admiration of the world. Impoverished by four years of war, when the struggle ceased they gathered up the broken strands and commenced the work of restoration. The magnificent record of courage and endurance made in that work is the most enduring monument to Southern men and women.
In the light of the present it seems as if the work they did was but reparatory for the present—that it was a school where, guided by the teachings of a Grady, a Gordon and hundreds of others as devoted as they, the South was preparing itself for the grander work—for the broader day, whose dawn lights all the horizon.
Awed almost by the mighty import of the future as I see it from this point, it seems to me that the men who conceived and carried out this mighty project are the instruments of a power project that controls the actions of nations as well as individuals—and in the future days P. H. Fitzgerald and W. J. Northen will be known as leaders of a movement whose ultimate result will be a revolution in industrial conditions that will be a mighty factor in broadening our trade relations with the world. The wealth of natural resources in the South that can be developed under more favorable conditions invite capital and labor to the task. The movement of this vast force of colonists to this section, its advance guard already camping on the promised land, is but the commencement of a general movement towards the South. He is an idle reader of the signs of the times who does not note that the current of immigration is Southward.
ORIGIN OF THE COLONY.
About ten years ago Mr. P. H. Fitzgerald conceived the colony project. Connected with the pension service of the government for years, he was brought into contact and formed the acquaintance of thousands of old soldiers. Familiar with this condition, he was led to believe that it would be greatly to their advantage to be located in a body in some section, where they could live more comfortably on the income derived from their pensions. This idea got into momre definite shape day by day until August, 1894, when he first presented it for the consideration of the old veterans. The plan met with instant approval, and in ever state north of the Ohio and Potomac, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, colony recruits were gathered. Before many months had elapsed the project was broadened by the enlistment in the colony ranks of thousands who were not old soldiers. Some of the brainest and ablest men in the West and Northwest joined the movement, and, indorsed by word and work the plan.
No movement of such magnitude as the "old soldiers' colony" was ever conceived and put into operation in the history of this country, and no movement of like character ever had such a force of able and forceful men back of it. They are Americans, and they bring to Georgia, a love for their land, a broad and intelligent desire for its best interests, that will make them a valuable addition to Georgia—indeed, Georgia will have no more loyal sons and daughters than this new contingent will furnish.
LOCATING THE COLONY.
About Jan. 1, 1895, Mr. Fitzgerald entered into correspondence with Governor Northern with reference to locating the colony in Georgia. As a result of this correspondence, in the latter part of March, 1895, Mr. Fitzgerald, accompanied by Dr. H. V. Manzer of Michigan, came to Georgia, and in company with Governor Northern visited Montgomery county first. After looking over the country in that section, they proceeded to Tifton, Ga. There they saw results, not theories. They saw the result of system intelligently applied, and without going further Mr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Manzer decided that Georgia was the state to locate in—inspite of the fact that lands had been offered in Texas in as large quantities as desired, at 60 cents per acre. It was ascertained at this time that a sufficient amount of land, of the same character as that about Tifton, could be secured in the adjacent counties of Irwin and Wilcox, just to the north of Tifton. Mr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Manzer returned North committed to a location in Georgia. Not caring, however, to assume the entire responsibility of the location, Mr. Fitzgerald requested Capt. D. C. Welch of McPherson, Kas., Peter Dinger of Gilman, Ill., H. C. Miller of Stanton, Neb., Dr. J. M. Deniston of Lapaz, Ind., and H. H. Winas of Michigan to accompany him to Georgia and fully satisfy themselves in behalf of the colony, that the decision to locate in Georgia was fully justified by the conditions. Reaching Atlanta they were joined by Governor Northen, and proceeded to south Georgia.
They visited Montgomery county, then came to Wilcox and Irwin counties and then went to Tifton. They carefully examined the land in Wilcox and Irwin counties, and at Tifton they saw on the same kind of soil as that of the colony lands such wonderful results that they unanimously indorsed Mr. Fitzgerald's selection of Georgia. The committee returned to their sevral homes, and their report indorsing Georgia was announced through the American Tribune. Desiring, however, that every member of the colony should be fully satisfied that no mistake had been made by the locating committee an invitation was given through the American Tribune to the various sub-colonies to send representatives to Georgia to see the country for themselves. They came when the land was ripe with the fruitage of vine and tree and bloom—when nature, garbed in her most luxuriant and alluring attire, such as can only be found in this sunny southland—beckoned them on every hand, and they went back and reported that the half not been told. The location having been decided upon, the work of sucuring the necessary amount of land was commenced, Mr. Fitzgerald and Governor Northen, assisted by Mr. J. R. Monroe of Abbeville, Ga., and Capt. H. H. Tift and W. O. Tift of Tifton, Ga., engaged in this work. By the latter part of June ojtions ? were secured on the necessary amount of land and in the early days of July, Mr. Fitzgerald made the first payment on the colony lands.
COMING TO THE PROMISED LAND
As early as the middle of July colonists had reached Georgia. First they came over land in wagons of the prairie schooner type, singly, then in pairs, and then by rail, until by the middle of September where was gathered at Abbeville, Swan and Tifton between three and four hundred colonists—the skirmish line of the mighty host to follow—a grand army of workers coming to Georgia to join hands with its people and her under summer skies to build new homes, surrounded by more pleasant conditions than existed in the sections from which they came. By the middle of October the survey of the city tract was well under way and by the first days of November was completed. The allotments of city lots followed at once, then the rush commenced in earnest. On the 4th of October but one new building was up—the Colony house—and the Fitzgerald house was in process of erection, and here and there were tents and prairie schooners, which were being utilized as temporary shelters. By the middle of November two thousand people were on the ground, four hundred were waiting in and about Abbeville and other points, and the embryo city of Fitzgerald, though its structures were rude and of a temporary character, offered conclusive evidence of the energy and push that will transform this land of the pine into a veritable garden. As an evidence of the vigor with which the work is being prosecuted in, this colony town, a contrast is presented betweent he conditions of November 17 and December 5th. On November 17, on the city plat, there was only one building erected and a half dozen under way, while here and there in every direction were piles of lumber that marked the site of a prospective dwelling. On December 5 fifty houses were completed and one hundred in process of erection, while a force of men were busily engaged in grading the streets and another force was at work cutting darins to draw off the water from the lowlands, which in isolated sections intervene between higher lands. The estimate of houses as given above does not include the emporary [sic] residences and cabins, which shelter a population of 3,000. On the first days of December the five-acre allotments wer [sic] made and in its wake another large contingent of colo- [sic] came on swelling the number from 2,400 people to between 3,000 and 4,000. The movement will continue, and as fast as the surveys can be completed of the larger tracts the number will be increased by new additions to the force already here.
THE COLONY LOCATION.
To those who are waiting for a report of the conditions—to thousands of others who think of coming to Georgia, and to others who desire more definite knowledge of the location—in what portion of Georgia it lies—its present and prospective railroad facilities—the character of the soil—what it will produce and the nature of the climate, the following points are presented. By reference to the accompanying map of the counties of Wilcox and Irwin in which the colony lands are located, and of the counties adjoining it, the reader will be enabled to ascertain the exact location of the colony. The larger portion of the colony tract is located in Wilcox county, Georgia. About one-third, however, lies in Irwin county.
Fitzgerald, the colony city, is located in Irwin county, and by the middle of January it will be reached by the Abbeville and Waycross road from the North, and the Tifton and Northeastern from the South. The Abbeville and Waycross road has been contracted for by colony parties, and will come into their possession about the first of January. It extends from Abbeville on the Georgia and Alabama railway to Luisville, a distance of eighteen miles. It is graded to Fitzgerald, four miles from Lulaville, and for some distance south of Fitzgerald. In a week's time the road can be extended to Fitzgerald, which will be done as soon as the legal transfer of the property is effected. The Tifton and Northeastern will be extended to Fitzgerald, and form a connection with the Abbeville and Waycross by the first of January or shortly after—work on the extension to Fitzgerald having been commenced. By these two routes the colony is furnished two competitive routes to the West and Northwest—the Georgia and Alabama via the Abbeville and Waycross and the Southern railway via the Georgia Southern and Florida railway from Tifton. For points on the Atlantic seaboad [sic] —Savannah, Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, competitive routes are furnished via the Plant system and connections from Tifton, via Georgia and Alabama from Abbeville, and G. S. & F. and connections from Tifton. In the near future other connections can be secured by an extension of the Abbeville and Waycross to Hawkinsville, Ga., a distance of twenty-five miles north from Abbeville. The Ocmulgee river is six miles distant from Fitzgerald. This river is navigable from Macon to tide water, and from Hawkinsville to tide water all the year round. By the first of January, 1896, a transportation line will be in operation from Hawkinsville to Savannah. The first steamers of the line, with a net freight capacity of 200 tons, will be ready to go into commission at that time. The building of a track, six miles in length, from Fitzgerald to the river, will give the colony the benefit of competitive freight rates by water, which is an item of great importance.
No city or town or section in Georgia is more favorably located in reference to shipping facilities, and the means to reach the great markets of the country on favorable terms than the city of the Fitzgerald and the colony will be in the near future.
The soil is what is known in Georgia as the "red pebble soil." It is a light arable top soil with a clay loam subsoil It yields readily and abundantly to systematic culture, and with a rotation system of cropping, and proper fertilization will raise any kind of crop—corn, wheat, oats, rye, millet, rice, cotton, sugar can, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and all kinds of truck. All of the colony lands are located in the great fruit belt of Georgia. Peaches, plums, pears, apricots, prunes, grapes, figs, apples, and in fact all kinds of fruit, except tropical fruits, can be successfully raised at a profit.
Fruit growing in this section of Georgia has grown into an important industry. Thousands of dollars have been invested in the business, and Tifton fruit has become famous. The colony lands contain the same kind of soil that is found at Tifton. Another year the fruit growing business, by organization of the Georgia Fruit Growers' Association, recently effected, and the establishment of a Fruit Growers' Exchange, to properly handle the crop, will be placed in Georgia on an assured business basis. The fruit growing area where fruit, especially peaches, can be grown at a profit, is limited, but all the colony land is within that area. Peaches can be shipped from this section two weeks earlier than from many other sections. Something in the soil and location favors early maturity of the peach.
The climate comes nearer being a perfect all-around climate than can be found in any other section of the United States. The average temperature during June, July and August is 84 degrees, and during December, January and February 54. There are occasional exceptions, when the temperature for a day or two, during the winter months, will drop down into the thirties. Farm work can be carried on all the year, the ground never freezing to prevent plowing. A man can work at any out-of-door avocation an average of eight hours a day the year around.
All of the colony land lies on a series of gentle undulations that in every direction afford a perfect natural drainage. The soil in many sections from which colonists come is a deeper and naturally richer soil, but the uncertain rainfall and the severe winters make the profitable production of crops uncertain. Here the average rainfall is greater than in any other section of the country—thre [sic] are no droughts and freezes. Such a thing as a total failure of any kind of crop has never been recorded here.
For the person who wishes to cultivate the soil either for fruits or cereals this is the golden land. For those who seek a healthy climate this section offers all that can be desired. Pulmonary complaints, typhoid fever and epidemic diseases of any kind are unknown here. The air of the pine woods seems to carry the balm of healing as it murmurs through the pine trees. Added to these sanitary advantages is an abundance of pure free stone water.
LOCATING COMMITTEE'S REPORT.
"We would respectfully state for your information that, pursuant of an appointment as a committee, made for the purpose of verifying a report on a tract of Montgomery county, Georgia, land, by Mr. P. H. Fitzgerald, and indorsed by Dr. Manzer, that we proceeded direct to said land and procured conveyances and proper guides, who drove with us around over the tract, which is situated from a mile to two miles north of the Savannah, Americus and Montgomery railroad, beginning about two and one-half miles north of Mount Vernon, the county seat. We found the land had a beautiful growth of long leaf yellow pine, original or virgin pine, which we were informed and believe would average from six to eight thousand feet an acre. The land is rolling, nicely drained, but not hilly; numerous small creeks of pure, clear water flow through the land at various places; no swamps, marshes or low lands appeared. We believe the entire tract can be cultivated when once cleared. The soil was a sand loam, varying from six to ten inches, and appeared upon a subsoil of reddish pebble clay. We were informed it was considered good strong lands upon which could be raised corn, sugar cane, potatoes, oats, peas, beans, and, in fact, all the garden vegetables we raise in the North; also, cotton and rice. All fruits do well in this section except the apple, which does only fairly, yet little attempt has been made to grow it. Peaches, pears, plums, grapes, figs, apricots, cherries and quinces are said to do well. The land is beautifully situated for our purpose. The health of the county is good as shown by all reports. The climate is mild and balmy, and is all a person could ask, for the distance from the coast makes it very desirable. The Oconee river is about two and one-half or three miles west of this land. The stream is a heavy running stream, and we are informed quite large boats go some distance above the land. The stream is sufficient to afford a good outlet for shipping lumber and rafting it. Having satisfied ourselves that this large body of land was in fact fully up to the report of Mr. Fitzgerald we went from there west along said railroad, the country along which appears to be uniform and nearly the same. We visited the farms of the Tift brothers of Tifton, and here we were given a treat in the shape of a drive over their beautiful orchards and farms. We would hardly know better how to describe the place than to ask you to again read over the report of Mr. Fitzgerald, which is a good one, yet it fails to give the place and county justice. It is far more than we expected to see, and, we are frank to say, we were agreeably surprised to see the prosperous condition of things around Tifton. The boys are from the state of Connecticut and have been here for many years. They were both soldiers from the Nutmeg State and, for Yankee soldiers, are very prosperous.
Their fruit crop for this year will be very large. The grape, pear and peaches all look very fine. We find that the clearing of pine lands are not so hard a task as was expected. The roots and stumps are easily removed. In clearing lands they girdle or deaden the trees any time from September to January. The leaves soon drop off, and they can plow the ground in December or January and make a crop the first year, while the trees may stand until the crop is removed. Peach trees bear the second year, and the third year they average about two bushels a tree. All the ground between the trees can be used for crops during the first, second and third years. We visited the lands in the counties of Wilcox and Irwin, rode over and through some beautiful lands in said counties. The soil and lay of the land were all very similar to that in Montgomery. This tract of land, comprising something over 100,000 acres, was offered to us at the same price as the Montgomery tract. A greater part of the heavy timber had been taken from it and it extended into two counties and was of an irregular shape; otherwise there was but little difference in the lands. Mr. Fitzgerald's report is, as we found it, a good, honest report, and just as our colony will find the lands and situation. We report favorably upon the Montgomery county lands. It is quite a task to find so large a body of suitable lands. The state is receiving a considerable amount of advertising, and lands are beginning to advance in price, and will not remain long at the low prices now prevailing. We, therefore, recommend that the option be closed and the colony accept this tract of land. We could go on and write pages of what we have seen and what can be done in this section of the state of Georgia, its climate and the peopl, but it would only be to repeat the report made by Mr. Fitzgerald, therefore, we close this report, each promising to give the Tribune a letter explaining more in detail at an early date. The reception of the native people was all that we could expect, all extending a hearty welcom and a desire that our colony will locate among them."
D. C. Welch, McPherson, Kan.
Peeter Dinger, Gilman, Ill.
Henry C. Miller, Stanton, Neb.
J. M. Deniston, La Paz, Ind.
H. H. Winas, Avoca, Mich.
AN INTERESTING STATEMENT
The following communication from Prsident [sic] P. H. Fitzgerald will prove interesting to every member of the colony, and to thousands of others. It is a history of the conception of the colony project, written by the man who conceived it. In the simple, straightforward manner that characterizes the man in all he does, he tells the story of the grandest project ever inaugurated in this country;
"Yes, I will give you a brief history of the colony and how I came to conceive the idea.
"Some ten years ago I noticed a vast foreign immigration to this country and was curious to see their landing and know more of the cause of such vast movements. I found in every case they answered 'to better their condition.' I noted, too, the locations and found they invariably went West and Northwest. This was owing to the large interest of the vast lines of railroads who sold them lands, virtually given such companies by our general government. I also noted that they scattered and few went to the same state or location.
[Source: Macon Telegraph, Dec. 22, 1895 -- pages 1-5; Transcribed by Sheila Pitts Massie]