Cliff Brown and the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

In the summer of 1917, Cliff Brown was a resident of Ray City, Berrien County, GA when he registered for the draft for World War I. Cliff Brown was African-American and, at age 22, he was of medium height and build, with black hair and black eyes. He was a native of Hawkinsville, GA born May 15, 1895.

An interesting fact from his draft card was that while a resident of Ray City, Brown was an employee of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. He gave his place of employment as “Adel, Ga. to Hampton Springs, Fla”

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

The South Georgia & West Coast Railroad was built by brothers Zenas and James Oglesby of Quitman Georgia, and ran from Adel to Hampton Springs, FL.  In Adel, the line connected with the Georgia & Florida Railroad which served Ray City, GA, running from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL.

Hampton Springs, FL, the southern terminus of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad, was the site of the famous Hampton Springs Hotel, once labeled “Dixie’s Famous Spa.”  While the hotel was very popular with the railroad’s white passengers in the early 1900s, African-Americans like railroad worker Cliff Brown were no doubt denied access to the resort.

In its heyday, “The hotel was world renowned for its sulfur springs and baths known for their healing and medicinal powers. The luxurious hotel boasted lush gardens with elaborate fountains and planters.  The resort had a covered pool with foot baths fed by the springs, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, casino, grand ballroom, outdoor dance pavilion, and railroad depot. The nine-hole golf course was among the first in the region.  The hotel had its own bottling plant and shipped the healing sulfur water nationwide.  It also had its own power plant and the majority of the food served in the dining room was grown and raised at the hotel farm. The hotel had a private hunting and fishing lodge on Spring Creek six miles from the hotel site and an excursion boat with a covered launch.”

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