A Plank Road for Troupville

In 1852, when all of Berrien County and the site of Ray City, GA, and other surrounding counties were still a part of old Lowndes County, the seat of county government was at Troupville, GA.

Troupville

The people of Troupville aspired to a transportation connection that would link them to the national economy.  Troupville already had a stage road, and a mail route, but the area’s main thoroughfare, the Coffee Road, lay 12 miles to the northwest. Troupville, nestled in the fork of the Withlacoochee River and the Little River, dreamed of a river way connection to float goods down to the Gulf of Mexico.  The folks of this section worked to get a railroad line through the town, but when it did come in 1857 the railroad would miss the mark by four miles.

Before that, in 1852, Troupville awaited the construction of a Plank Road which had been authorized by the State legislature.

Plank Road construction

Plank Road construction

The Act to incorporate the Satilla Plank Road Company, approved January 22, 1850, was a part of the  decade-long Plank Road Boom which began in 1844.

An Act to Incorporate the Satilla Plank Road Company

An Act to Incorporate the Satilla Plank Road Company

The Satilla Plank Road was to run from the Satilla River, through the Okefenokee Swap to Troupville, then on to Thomasville and on to the steamboat docks on the Flint River at Bainbridge, GA.  At Thomasville, it could connect with the Florida and Georgia Plank Road, already under construction, which ran to Monticello, FL then on to Newport, FL  on the St. Marks River.

 

Savannah Daily Morning News
January 20, 1852

A Plank Road through the Okefenokee Swamp

The Committee on Internal Improvements in the House, have reported in favor for a plank road through the Okefenokee Swamp to some point on the Flint River. According to the representations of the report, the enterprise is one of vast importance to Southern and South-western Georgia. The Bill reported proposes to grant the company one half of the unsurveyed portion of the swamp on condition that they build a good and sufficient road through the same. The following are the advantages as enumerated in the report:

         Looking upon the map of Georgia, we see the St. Ilia [Satilla], a bold river stretching from the sea coast inland, in a western direction, and navigable for steamers for forty-five miles. Measuring from thence, we pass in almost a direct line through the Okefenokee swamp, through Clinch county to Troupville, in Lowndes county, from thens to Thomasville, in Thomas county, to Bainbridge on the Flint river. The distance from the St. Illa to Bainbridge is one hundred and sixty miles.
          Diverging to the left from Troupville, we reach Monticello, thence to Tallahassee in Florida. The distance from the St. Illa to Tallahassee is one hundred and forty miles. From Monticello to Newport, (the sea port of the Gulf,) the distance is twenty-seven miles, between which places we are informed, a plank road is now being constructed, and some eighteen or twenty miles of which are already completed.
          From the St. Illa to Monticello, the distance is one hundred and thirteen miles, over which, if a plank road were constructed, would give a plank road connection between the shipping port on the Gulf, with a shipping point on the Atlantic side, the entire distance being one hundred and forty miles.
          We are informed the usual rate of freight on plank roads is one cent per bale of cotton, for each mile.
         The freight, then, from Bainbridge to the St. Illa, would be one dollar and sixty cents per bale, and from Tallahassee to the St. Illa, would be one dollar and forty cents per bale, the respective distance being, as before stated, one hundred and sixty miles, and one hundred and forty miles from Bainbridge and Tallahassee to the St. Illa river.
          From the St. Illa, the run can be made to Savannah by steamboats in ten hours, and a fair average rate of freight on cotton, would be forty cents per bale.
          Thus it will be seen that cotton can be transported through this route from Bainbridge to Savannah, from two dollars to two dollars twenty-five cents per bale, and from Tallahassee (in Florida) to Savannah, at one dollar and eighty cents to two dollars per bale.
          The Okefenokee Swamp, stretching as it does from North to South, forty-five to sixty miles, from Georgia into Florida, intercepts and cuts off the trade from a large and fertile portion of our State, and forces its products for shipment, through the Gulf ports in Florida, where the charges attendant on shipment are peculiarly extravagant.
          There is not a planter in Southern or South Western part of our State, but can bear testimony of the heavy charges, high rates of freight and insurance, and vexatious delays attendant on shipments of their produce from the Gulf ports.
          We have before us evidence from a planter of Thomas county, a member of this House, stating that the cost of sending his cotton to Thomasville, through the Gulf ports, to New York, and selling the same there, averages eight dollars per bale.
          It is apparent, then, to your committee, that by opening a plank road communication through the proposed rout, would cause a saving to the planters of the Southern portion of this State of from four to five dollars per bale, and the result would be that the produce of this State, being shipped through the ports of Florida, would in turn draw the products of Florida to Savannah, our own shipping port.

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Plank Road Boom

The Plank Road Boom was an economic boom that happened in the United States. Largely in the Eastern United States and New York, the boom lasted from 1844 to the mid 1850s. In about 10 years, over 3,500 miles of plank road were built in New York alone- enough road to go from Manhattan to California, and more than 10,000 miles of plank road were built countrywide.

The Plank Road Boom swept across Georgia, as it did the rest of the nation. At least 16 Plank Road Companies were incorporated in Georgia. By 1847, plank streets were being constructed in Savannah, connecting warehouses and wharves with the railroad. Over the next several years plank roads were planned all over Georgia. In 1849, North Carolina undertook the construction of a plank road connecting Fayetteville, NC to Savannah, GA. In Georgia, a plank road was proposed to run from Griffin to West Point. Another plank road was proposed from Barnesville, GA to the Montgomery Road at Macon.  A plank road was proposed from Washington to Elberton. In 1850, a bill was introduced “to incorporate the Dahlonega and Marietta Turnpike and Plank Road Company; and also to incorporate the Cumming and Atlanta Turnpike and Plank Road Company.” Also, “to incorporate the Cobb county and Alabama Turnpike or Plank Road Company; also, authorizing the construction of a Plank Road from Washington, in Wilkes county, to some point on the Georgia Rail Road.” A plank road was proposed from Albany to Oglethorpe. Among others planned were the Macon, Perry and Albany Plank Road, the Ogeechee Plank Road, the Columbus and Greenville Plank Road, the Atlanta and Sweetwater Plank Road, the Henderson and Marthasville Plank Road, and the Columbus and Lannahassee Plank Road.

          Proponents of plank roads stated that plank roads would make it much easier to carry goods and travel in general. They were stated to be 1/3 the cost of gravel roads. Plank roads were said to give a return on investment of 20% They also claimed that the roads will last for at least eight years, and if they don’t, that will be because of more people travelling on the road, which would thus result in more tolls collected. Much of the plank road building occurred in places where lumber was comparatively affordable due to thriving timber industries, as wood was usually over sixty percent of a plank road’s cost.
           National newspapers helped spread the plank road craze. In 1847, Hunts Merchants Magazine published an article titled “Plank Roads-New Improvement.” In 1849, Niles’ Weekly Register said plank roads were “growing into universal favor.” in the 1850s, the New York Tribune praised their ease of construction and said that the roads added a great amount to the transportation abilities of the New York. In March 1850, Scientific American said they viewed plank roads as a means of “completely reforming the interior or rural transit trade of our country.”  In 1852, Hunts Merchants Magazine published an article titled “The First Plank Road Movement,” it extolled plank roads.

In the list of great improvements which have given to this age the character which it will bear in history above all others-the age of happiness to the people-the plank road will have a prominent place, and it deserves it…the plank road is of the class of canals and railways. They are the three great inscriptions graven on the earth by the hand of modern science…

— Hunts Merchants’ Magazine

They also published an editorial saying “every section of the country should be lined with these roads.” Other written items include “Observations on Plank Roads” by George Geddes, “History, Structure and Statistics of Plank Roads in the United States and Canada,” by William Kingsford, and “A Manual of the Principles and Practice of Road-Making” by William M. Gillespie.

 It does not appear that the Satilla Plank Road was ever constructed.
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Nashville, GA Electric and Water Plants Built in 1907

In the south end of Berrien County it wasn’t until 1923 that Ray City  got electric lights and running water, although some residents installed their own carbide electric systems before that.

Here’s an old newspaper clipping about the power and water plants built in Nashville, GA in 1907. The contractor for the construction of the plant was W.P. Tittle.  Tittle later owned a Maxwell car dealership in Nashville.

Nashville Herald article on town's first power and water

Nashville Herald article on town’s first power and water.

Nashville Herald
February 16, 1956

Electric and Water Plants Built in 1907

      Nashville citizens reached the decision in 1907 that something should be done about improving the water supply and furnishing electric lights for the town.
      After employing engineers to draft plans for a combined water and light plant a contract was let to W. P. Tittle, who built the plant and installed the water mains and electric distributing system.
      After much grief in attempting to operate the light plant a deal was finally completed in 1928 when the Southeast Georgia Power Co., purchased the electric light plant for $50,000. The Southeast Georgia Power Co., in turn sold the plant to the Georgia Power Co., who operate the electric distribution for Nashville today.
       The water plant, which the city retained, has been improved from time to time and additions made until today it is one of the most complete in the state. The water department of the City of Nashville is today serving 1,065 customers through the water meters, quite an increase from the less that 100 customers who began using city water when the plant was first installed.

Additional Notes:

Southeast Georgia Power Co., located at Douglas, GA, served several communities in south Georgia with electricity…

The Georgia Power Company on January 28, 1930, purchased from the Southeast Georgia Power Company the complete electric distribution systems in the towns of Alma, Nichols, Nashville, Willacoochee and Broxton, together with the respective franchises under which these distribution systems were operated. It also acquired certain transmission lines in Baker, Coffee, Atkinson and Berrien counties, between Alma and Douglas, Douglas and Broxton, Broxton and Ambrose, Douglas and Willacoochee, and Willacoochee and Nashville.

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WWII Vets added Vocational Building at Ray City School

Vocational School for WWII Vets

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

The Class of 1949 wrote, “This year, 1949, the veterans are also completing a very modern and up-to-date lunchroom, which is a great asset to our school. “

Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-49

Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-49

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WWII Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-1949.

WWII Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-1949.

Albert Studstill was one of the Ray City WWII veterans that helped build the Vocational buildings at the Ray City School and also at the old high school in Nashville, GA .

Reverend Bob Brown, Master of Theology

Reverend Bob Merrill Brown (1936-1984)

Reverend Bob M. Brown and his wife Sherra Mashburn Brown lived in Ray City, GA in the 1960s.  Rev. Brown’s sister, Francine Brown McCall, was also a resident of the town.

Reverend Bob M. Brown, became pastor of Ray City Baptist Church in 1964.

Reverend Bob M. Brown, became pastor of Ray City Baptist Church in 1964.

 

Bob Brown attended Mercer University, Macon, GA, graduating with the Class of 1958. He later attended New Orleans Baptist Seminary (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) in New Orleans where he met his wife, Sherra Mashurn. Sherra Mashburn Brown was born on August 30, 1937 in New Orleans, LA. She was the daughter of Rev. James and Sherra Mashurn.

Bob Brown was an Army Chaplain, commissioned captain, and served in Korean and Viet Nam.

Captain Bob Merrill Brown, Army Chaplain. Image source: Betty Anne Greene Spear

Captain Bob Merrill Brown, Army Chaplain. Image source: Betty Anne Greene Spear

 

Houston Home Journal
September 14, 1967

FT. HAMILTON, N. Y.-Army Reserve Captain Bob M. Brown, whose mother, Mrs. Lucille D. Brown, lives at 719 Charles Dr., Perry, completed a military chaplain orientation course Sept. 1 at the Army Chaplain School, Ft. Hamilton, N. Y. He received nine weeks of training in psychology and coun seling, methods of instruction and principles of character guidance. Instruction was also given in standard military areas such as administration, customs of serv ice, drill and techniques of study. Capt. Brown received his B.A. degree in 1958 from Mercer Uni versity, and his B. D. degree in 1962 from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His wife, Sherra, lives in Ray City, Ga. 

†††

 

 

Houston Home Journal
May 26, 1966

Rev. Bob Brown Receives Degree at Jacksonville

      The Rev. Bob M. Brown, son of Mrs. Lucille D. Brown of Perry, received the Master of Theology degree from the Luther Rice Baptist Theological Seminary in Jacksonville on May 15.
      The Reverend Mr. Brown, a graduate and former teacher of Perry High School, was ordained to the ministry by the First Baptist Church of Perry.
He also holds a Bachelor of Arts from Mercer University and a Bachelor of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
       Since 1964 he has served as pastor of the Ray City Baptist Church, Ray City, Ga.

†††

OBITUARY

Houston Home Journal
March 1, 1984

Deaths

Brown

Bob M. Brown, 47, died Friday, February 24, 1984. Services were held at 11 a m. Tuesday in the First Baptist Church in Perry. Burial was in Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Pinehurst. The Rev. Dr. Gene Bowman officiated. Mr. Brown, native of Vienna, had lived in Perry for several years before moving to Brooksville. He graduated from Mercer University in Macon and received a bachelor of divinity degree from Southern Baptist School in New Orleans and a master of theology degree from Luther Wright Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla. He taught at Southwest College in New Mexico and at Perry High School. He was formerly the pastor of Ray City Baptist Church and of Alexander Baptist Church. He served in Korea and Vietnam as a chaplain. Survivors include a daughter, Maranatha Brown of Brooksville, Fla.; four sons, Nathan Brown, Ethan Brown, Merrill Brown and David Brown, all of Brooksville; his mother, Lucille Brown of Perry; two sisters, Franceen McCall of Nashville, Ga., and Wylodme Blaylock of Sherman, Texas; three brothers, Carry Brown of Carnesville, Allan Brown of Texas and Kenneth Brown of Key Biscayne. Fla. Pallbearers were Nathan Brown, Ethan Brown, Merrill Brown,. David Brown, Larry Brown, Alan Brown, Kenneth Brown. Watson-Hunt Funeral Home of Ferry had charge of arrangements. 

Grave of Chaplain Bob Merrill Brown, Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Pinehurst, GA

Grave of Chaplain Bob Merrill Brown, Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Pinehurst, GA

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Watson Grade News March 4, 1904

A continuation of a series of 1904 articles in the Tifton Gazette on the residents of “Watson Grade” by  anonymous author “Trixie.”  The Watson Grade community was just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA, near Empire Church where the Watson, Patten, Lee, Cook and Sirmans  families all farmed.   On March 4, 1904, the Watson Grade news included a report that Marcus Greene had seriously injured his hand.

Marcus Greene (1877-1935), farmer of Berrien County, GA. Image source: D. Jane Griffin

Marcus Greene (1877-1935), farmer of Berrien County, GA. Image source: D. Jane Griffin

1904-mar-4-watson-grade-news

Tifton Gazette
March 4, 1904

Watson Grade News.

         We are having some fine weather and the farmers are making good use of it.
         Last Sunday was regular service at Empire, and there was quite a crowd out.
         Mr. S. W. Watson, of Irwin was down last Friday to see his brother Mr. Jos. Watson, who has been suffering with cancer for sometime, but is fast improving.
         The advance on the price of guano seems to have nothing to do with the amount our farmers are buying, as many of them are failing to get their orders filled.
         Mr. Marcus Greene got one of his hands painfully hurt one day last week while riding on the Gray Lumber Co’s log-train. It is thought some of his fingers, if not his hand, will have to be amputated.
         Mr. Aaron Cook caught two trout in Ray’s mill pond last Thursday that weighed fifteen lbs.
         Mr. and Mrs. Joe Kirkland visited relatives in Clinch last Sunday.
         Mr. W. C. Patten has the nicest specimen of South Georgia stock raising to be seen in this section. He has two young colts in his lot that would be a credit to any stock raising country.
         A little girl arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. S.I. Watson a few days since.
         The school and Round Pond opened up last Monday under the management of Mr. Jno. Greene, of near Lois.

Trixie

Some notes on the personal mentions:

Mr. S.W. Watson
Samuel W. Watson (1863-1925), a son of Mark R Watson and Rachel Slaughter, was born and raised in the Rays Mill district (1144 Georgia Militia District).  S.W. Watson moved his family  to Irwin County some time before 1900, but returned to Berrien before 1910.

Marcus Greene
Marcus Greene, a farmer of Berrien County,  was a son of Marshall and Elizabeth Greene. He was a brother of Riley M. Greene, who would later be an investor in the Bank of Rays Mill.

Gray Lumber Company
The Gray Lumber Company had as a principal investor Benjamin B. Gray. Gray was a brother-in-law of the notorius outlaw Ben Furlong (c.1854-1886).

Aaron Cook
Aaron Cook
, a veteran of the Spanish American War, was a farmer and lifelong resident of the area.

Mr. & Mrs. Joe Kirkland
Joseph S. Kirkland and Glovie Ann Register were a young couple, married on January 21, 1903.  Their parents were residents of Clinch County.

William C. Patten
William C. Patten
(1849-1944) was a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register. He was a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace.

Watson Girl
Jentie Watson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel I Watson, was born February 9, 1904.

John Greene
John Greene was a teacher in Berrien county in the early 1900s and taught at Round Pond School in 1904. He was a son of Houston Green and Ann E. Futch, of Lois, GA.  Round Pond  School was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Round Pond School was consolidated with Possum Trot and Guthrie School.

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