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Telfair County, Georgia History
from:

The Story of Georgia and the Georgia People
1732 to 1860
by George Gillman Smith, D.D.
Originally published c. 1901

Submitted by K. Torp, ©2007

 

TELFAIR.

Telfair was formed from Wilkinson in 1807, and named for Edward Telfair. We have, in our account of Montgomery county, drawn a picture of Telfair.

In all this region known as the pine-barrens there was so much general resemblance, that the impression that there was no difference in land where pine trees grew was a common one with those who did not know better; but this was quite an error. The great pine belt was in that geological formation known as Quaternary, and a small part in what was known in Georgia as the rotten limestone country and by the old geologists as the Tertiary, where there are many fossils. Much of the pine land near the coast consisted of barren sand dunes, and is now, and probably always will be, worthless, and much that might have produced well is too flat for drainage; but in Montgomery and Telfair and the adjoining counties there is a large body of pine land high and dry, with a good foundation of yellow clay, where the water is pure and free from lime. This land is not naturally fertile, and when manured does not hold its fertility; but by liberal fertilizing it can be made to produce largely.

The Scotch immigrants of America (Scotchmen from North Carolina) saw the worth of these lands, and, as they cost but a trifle, they secured large bodies of them and built up good homes. Much of this land, however, was not taken up by home-seekers, but by speculators who secured the titles to it for a very small price. It was thought to be worthless; and many of those who drew lots would not pay the five-dollar fee demanded for a plot and grant. The speculators took this reverted land for the price of the warrant, and secured the title. They then put the lands on the market. There were not a few lots which were held under forged deeds, and innocent people were inveigled into the purchase of lands which were worthless, or for which the seller had no title.

A company of Maine lumbermen, who thought they saw large possibilities in lumbering in Georgia and in working up the pine forests of the South, bought from the real owners who had bought them from the State, for an insignificant sum, many thousand acres of land in Telfair and the adjoining counties. They paid for the land, and received good titles to it. They built large sawmills on the Ocmulgee river, and founded a city which was called Lumber City. The venture was not successful, and they abandoned the country. They held to their deeds, however, and paid the trifling taxes which were demanded. The mills rotted down. The lands were unoccupied, and were taken possession of, in many cases, by land thieves. They sold the lots to bona-fide purchasers and gave bogus titles. In some cases the lots were sold for taxes and bought in good faith; and, in blissful ignorance that the Maine company existed, these simple-hearted purchasers took possession of the lands and improved them. They never dreamed that the Maine company had any successor or representatives. For decades of years matters went on in this way, until after the war, when the great lumber firm of W.E. Dodge & Co. titles appeared on the scene and presented to the land, which were recognized as good, and presented tax receipts which showed that the tax sales had been illegal. They demanded that the owners should vacate their holdings. There was much litigation, and men were ejected from their homes by violence, and in turn there was murder and lawless proceedings against the agents of strangers. The courts came in; false titles were exposed, and blood-stained criminals were punished by lifelong imprisonment in distant prisons. There was, of course, a great deal of the county not involved in these troubles, and the railways opened it up; the turpentine and lumber men came in, and few sections of the State have developed so rapidly as this section of the once despised pine-barren of Telfair.

The lots of land were large — 490 acres in a lot, and a lot of land was often sold for twenty dollars. The result was the securing of large bodies of land by comparatively poor men, who relied upon the wild pastures for feeding their cattle, and upon a small area of well-fertilized land for their breadstuffs.

Montgomery, Telfair and Tattnall were all peopled in the main by thrifty Scotch people, and cattle- and sheep-raising was the great industry. And in no part of Georgia was there a better type of people than in these pine forests. These people had the virtues and the vices of the Scotch. They were clannish and somewhat narrow, and many of them were too fond of whisky; but they were plain and honest, and shrewd and religious. The school was found in every section; but the county was thinly peopled, and kirks of their fatherland were few and often remote, and so many of the Scotch Presbyterians became Methodists and Baptists. The Methodists had missionaries and camp-meetings and organized churches among them at an early day, and built up quite a church from the descendants of the Highlanders.

The population of Telfair in 1810 was only 526 whites and 288 slaves; in 1820 it was 1,571 whites and 561 slaves. Twenty years later it was 2,396 whites and 831 slaves. These slaves were almost entirely confined to a few planta tions on the river, where there was sometimes a large num ber, amounting to scores, on a plantation. The first settlers were: Jos. Williams, A. Graham, D. Graham, John Wilcox, Thos. Wilcox, G. Mizell, A. McLeod, Robert Boyd, Moses Rountree, James Mooney, Wright Ryall, McDuffie, J. A. Rogers, N. Ashley, C. Ashley, John Coffee, W. Ashley, A. Brewer, J. Herbert, S. Herbert, J. MacCrea, Duncan MacCrea, O. Butler, Lachlin Leslie.

Of these the Ashleys, Coffees, Brewers and Rogers were English, and had large plantations on the river. The others were pure Scotch.

The Southern railway passes through Telfair and the steamboats ply the river.

The people of Telfair always valued education, and the country school was in every neighborhood from the first settlement. They were, however, a poor, plain people and were content with the elements of an English education; but as the railroad came the desire for better culture was developed, and high schools were established, and in McRae there is a collegiate institute known as the South Georgia College, which is quite a flourishing school and is doing much for higher education.
 

 Towns, Hamlets, and Villages


Telfair County was laid out in 1807 and named in honor of Ed­ ward Telfair, twice governor of Georgia. Parts of it were added to Montgomery in 1812 and 1820, a part was taken from Appling and added to Telfair in 1818, in 18.34 a part of Telfair was given to Coffee county, and in August, 1905, still another portion was taken to help form Jeff Davis county. Previous to the formation of the last named county, the boundaries were as follows: Montgomery on the northeast, Coffee on the southeast, Coffee and Irwin on the south, Wilcox on the southwest and Dodge on the northwest. The Ocmulgee and Little Ocmulgee rivers, with their tributaries, drain the county. The face of the country is level and the soil is sandy, with clay subsoil. Com, oats, sweet and Irish potatoes, cotton, rice, millet, sugarcane and peas are the staple productions. The principal fruits are peaches, apples, plums and pears.  Thousands of acres of timber still stand and there is a large trade in turpentine, lumber, rosin and shingles. The Southern and the Seaboard Air Line railways cross the county and provide ample facilities for transportation. McRae is the county seat. Helena and Lumber City are other towns. The population of the county in 1900 was 10,083, an increase of 4,406 since 1890.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz


Helena, a town in the northwestern part of Telfair county, is about three miles from McRae and at the junction of the main line of the Southern railway and the Americus & Savannah division of the Seaboard Air Line. The town was incorporated by act of the legislature in 1891, and being situated in the midst of the great pine and turpentine belt, it is quite a busy place with its saw mills and its shipments of lumber, shingles, turpentine and rosin. It has express and telegraph offices, a money order post office, good business houses, good schools and the additional advantage of proximity to the South Georgia college at McRae. The Helena district has 975 inhabitants, of whom 604 live in the town.
(Georgia: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form. VOL III Publ. 1906. Transcribed by Angelia Carpenter)

Lumber City, a town in the eastern part of Telfair county, is on the Ocmulgee river and the branch of the Southern railway that connects Macon to Brunswick.  It was incorporated by act of the legislature in 1889 and, as its name indicates, has a large lumber business.  It ships large quantities of lumber, turpentine and rosin over the railway and by steamboats plying the Ocmulgee and the Altamaha rivers, has telegraph and express offices, a money order postoffice with rural free delivery, a branch bank of the Baxley Banking Company, several flourishing mercantile establishments, and both the town and vicinity are well supplied with schools and churches.  By the census of 1900 the population was 760, and in the entire district there were1,326 inhabitants.
(Source: Georgia Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, VOL II, by Candler & Evans, Publ. 1906. Transcribed by Joanne Morgan)


Milan, a village in Telfair county, is on the Seaboard Air Line railway, about eight miles west of Helena. It has a money order postoffice, express and telegraph offices, some mercantile interests, schools, churches, etc., and in 1900 reported a population of 112.
[Source: Georgia Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons,  Vol 2, Publ 1906. Transcribed by Tracy McAllister]

Oswald, a post-village of Telfair county, is on the Seaboard Air Line railway, five miles west of Helena. It has some mercantile concerns and docs some shipping.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form- Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz


Rue, a post-hamlet in the southern part of Telfair county, is near the Ocmulgee river and about eight miles northwest of Barrows Bluff, which is the nearest railroad station.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz


Scotland, a town in Telfair county, is on the Macon & Brunswick division of the Southern railway, about five miles south­ east of McRae. It bas some mercantile, manufacturing and shipping interests, a money order postoffice, telegraph and express offices, school and church privileges, and in 1900 had a population of 150.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form- Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz


Towns, a village of Telfair county, is a station on the Macon & Brunswick division of the Southern railway system, ten miles southeast of McRae. It has a money order postoffice, with rural free delivery, telegraph and express offices, mercantile and shipping interests, and in 1900 reported a population of 141.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz




Banks

Merchants’ Bank, The, of McRae, Telfair county, was organized in 1897, with a capital stock of $25,000 and with the following corps of officers: Thomas Eason, president; J.F. Cook, vice-president; L.L. Campbell, cashier. The bank was incorporated under the laws of the state in 1900, and its present officers are: H.E. Pritchett, president; E.F. McRae, vice-president; H.P. Whiddon, cashier; A.V. Whiddon, assistant cashier; Judge Max L. McRae, attorney. The president is a resident of Jacksonville, Fla., and the other officers reside in McRae. The bank is established in a substantial and attractive building of its own, at the corner of Oak street and Second avenue, and controls a large and representative business. From the official statement of the bank issued Jan. 9, 1906, the following items are secured: Time loans against collateral, $73,205.56; banking house and fixtures, $3,574.14; due from other banks and bankers, $39,128.61 cash on hand, $2,130.77 real estate, $4,100. Total, $122,142.08. Capital stock, $15,000; surplus fund, $10,455.89; dividends unpaid, $1,360 individual deposits subject to check, $68,525.11 time certificates of deposit, $26,676.10; cashier’s checks outstanding, $124.98. Total, $122,142.08. 
(Source: Georgia Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, VOL II, by Candler & Evans, Publ. 1906. Transcribed by Kim Mohler)

Rue, a post-hamlet in the southern part of Telfair county, is near the Ocmulgee river and about eight miles northwest of Barrows Bluff, which is the nearest railroad station.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz




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