On Thursday, October 1, 1908 the very first train rolled into Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. It was an exciting day in the Wiregrass and when the train stopped at the Ray’s Mill depot. Nearly one hundred people boarded for the excursion to Valdosta.
The Valdosta Times reported on the great celebration upon the arrival of the train in that city. Among the G & F passengers on the very first northbound train rolling out of Valdosta was Louis Malone Bullard, son of Green Bullard and husband of Dollie Howard Knight.
October 3, 1908
A BIG CROWD ON EXCURSION
Valdosta’s Neighbors Celebrate Opening of New Railroad.
Nearly Six Hundred People Came to the City Today on Excursion Over the Georgia and Florida Road From Points North of Here – The Visitors are Given a Cordial Welcome.
(From Thursday’s Daily. [October 1, 1908])
The excursion over the Georgia and Florida railroad today, marking the opening of the new line, brought big crowds to Valdosta. Our neighbors paid us a visit, and Valdostans extended them a cordial greeting.
The train from Hazlehurst reached the city about 12:30 on schedule time. It was met at the turnout on the new road by a committee of twenty-five citizens, carrying badges with which to tag the excursionists. Mayor Roberts boarded the engine at the crossing and brought the train into the city, with the whistle blowing and bell ringing every foot of the way. At the depot the excursionists, numbering nearly six hundred people were formed in line and marched up Patterson street and to the Odd Fellows Hall on Central avenue, where a splendid lunch had been prepared. The ladies in the party, numbering about one hundred and fifty, were met by a committee at Pinkston’s store and carried up stairs where refreshments had been prepared for them.
No pains were spared by the committee in charge of the entertainment for the visitors, to make the occasion a pleasant one. The lunches at both places were simply splendid, and enough had been provided to feed even a larger crowd.
After dinner there were a number of speeches at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, Judge W. H. Griffin welcoming the visitors to the city in a ten minute talk which was applauded to the echo. Prof. McDonald, of Douglas, made a splendid speech expressing the appreciation of the people along the new line for the cordial welcome given them by the citizens of Valdosta. He was followed by Col. Smith, of Nashville, who added his praise to that of the hundreds who had given the occasion their unqualified endorsement.
Every town on the new line was represented in the excursionists. Hazlehurst, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville, Ray’s Mill and all of the other towns sent representative crowds. One hundred and seventy-two came from Nashville and nearly a hundred boarded the train at Ray’s Mill.
Between seventy-five and one hundred came up on the early train from Madison and the towns between here and there.
The visitors have a half day to spend in the city, as the train on the return trip does not leave until six o’clock this afternoon.
The first passenger train of the Georgia and Florida going north left out of Valdosta this morning at about 8:30 o’clock. It was the accommodation train No. 20, and carried several freight cars and a passenger coach.
No 20 met the excursion train coming from Hazlehurst, at Nashville.
Several passengers got aboard. Some for Mathis, some for Ray’s Mill and others for Nashville. Among the passengers were J. R. Fitzgerald, Garland Wilkinson and L. M. Bullard.
Those who watched this first train going north from Valdosta over the new route of the Georgia and Florida, realized the dream of leading Valdostans for years.
This might well be called the birthday of the new era for the city’s prosperity, as the Georgia and Florida opens up a vast territory that was hard for Valdosta to reach heretofore.
When completed the road from Madison to Augusta will touch many good towns but among them all it will have no better friend than Valdosta.
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