Lon Fender Loses Milltown Stills

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  Born William Alonzo Fender, he was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920), who became residents of Ray City in their senior years.  Lon Fender himself owned farmland near Ray City in the 1920s.

Lon Fender and his brothers were big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  In 1906, November  the Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, noted that Lon Fender had purchased “the turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.”

Two years later, the Tifton Gazette reported that Fender’s still at Milltown burned on October 21, 1908:

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 -- page 6

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 — page 6

Another account published in the Waycross Journal described the losses as “the turpentine still of W. L. Fender, with 35 barrels of spirits, and 100 barrels of rosin…destroyed by fire.” The Journal further  indicated that the robbery referred to occurred west of Milltown on the Georgia & Florida Railroad, making it likely that the actual scene of the robbery was Jim Swindle’s store at Ray’s Mill, GA.

Another fire struck the Milltown still in 1909:

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 -- page 9

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 — page 9

W.L. “Lon” Fender later purchased a large tract of timber near Ray City, GA,  known as the “Sirmans Timber.”

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