Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers

EARLY POSTAL SERVICE

In was not until after the Civil War that mail service  at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available.  But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back more than 185 years.

Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient.  When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier.   A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier.   Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.

But, in 1825  no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill  nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.

McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on  March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.  Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road”  in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.  Officially,    McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”

The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3

The McCranie Family

Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information.  It was at his home there that the first post office in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826.  The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’  which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster.  The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.

1830 Georgia map detail - original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

1830 Georgia map detail – original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

SHARPE’S STORE POST OFFICE
The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828 announced that Hamilton W. Sharpe had opened a post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe's Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 17, 1828

A Post Office has been recently established at Sharpe’s Store, in Lowndes county, Geo. on the route from Telfair Courthouse to Tallahassee – Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq. P.M.

Hamilton W. Sharpe served as Postmaster at Sharpe’s Store until 1836.  At that time the name of the post office was briefly changed to Magnum Post Office, with John Hall appointed as Postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, having been selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near  the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of  Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)

…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’  On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

Postmaster Smith’s annual salary in 1831 was $16.67.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

    There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house.  It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location.  The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River.  It was named ‘Lowndesville.”  The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”

Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there.  Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.

By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)

 CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:

***

In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.

***

Approved July 2, 1836

This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.

Detail of J.H. Young's 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of J.H. Young’s 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of Burr's 1839 map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

Detail of Burr’s 1839 postal map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat  yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel E. Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA and reporting Indian activity in the area. Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a militia leader in the 1836-1842 Indian Wars in Lowndes County, GA.

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA had franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA hand franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville inconvenienced many residents of north Lowndes county, possibly prompting the resumption of postal service at Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road.  The name of Magnum Post Office reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton W. Sharpe was again Postmaster.

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe's Store. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, Lowndes County, GA. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837.

Unfortunately,  Sharpe’s Store was even farther distant from Beaverdam Creek;  the Knights, Clements, and their neighbors were left with a forty mile round trip to Troupville fetch the mail.  Sharpe himself served as Postmaster 1837 to 1848.  James Perry took over as Postmaster at Sharpe’s store from 14 December, 1848 to 16 August, 1849, when Sharpe returned to the position. John G. Polhill took the position 5 July, 1850, and Norman Campbell took over 21 August, 1850 to 21 July 1853 when the post office was moved to Morven, GA.

By 1838, Postmaster William Smith at Troupville was receiving weekly mail via routes from Waresboro and Bainbridge, and from San Pedro, Madison County, FL. In 1847 weekly mail was coming and going from Irwinville and Bainbridge, GA, and from Madison, FL.  William Smith continued as the Troupville Postmaster until  October 30, 1848 when attorney Henry J. Stewart took over.  On  August 16, 1849 William Smith resumed as Postmaster at Troupville.

Weekly service extended in 1851 to Waresboro, Albany and Irwinville, and to Columbus, FL.

Travel in the South in the 1830s

Travel in the South in the 1830s

 ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.  Weekly mail service berween Waresboro or Waynesville and Troupville came by Allapaha.

Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)

Benjamin Sermons Postmaster 06/27/1838
Isaac D. Hutto Postmaster 05/03/1841
James S. Harris Postmaster 03/05/1842
Samuel H. Harris Postmaster 09/12/1846
Peter Munford Postmaster 01/28/1848
James S. Harris Postmaster 02/09/1849
Andrew J. Liles Postmaster 11/27/1849

While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.

FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early  Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves.  “At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…”   The J. H. Colton Map of Georgia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River now known as Ten Mile Creek. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).

HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.

STAR ROUTES
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.”   Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible  by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach.  On March 3, 1845 Congress  established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation.  These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.”  In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.

NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.”  In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.

CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.”  The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.

RAY CITY POST OFFICE

After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA.  The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.

Related Posts:

Posting Mail at Ray City

Post marked Ray's Mills, GA

Post marked Ray’s Mills, GA

 Levi J. Knight and the first Wiregrass Pioneers to settle on Beaverdam Creek in the area of present day Ray City, GA arrived here about 185 years ago, in the 1820s. At first  these settlers had no mail service at all, but within a year or two a post office was established at Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie’s place on the Coffee Road. That was a 50 mile round trip for the settlers at Beaverdam Creek to fetch their mail.  Other post offices sprang up to serve the pioneers of Old Berrien County, but no post office was established closer than 10 or 12 miles to Ray City until after the Civil War.

KNIGHT’S MILL POST OFFICE
After the end of the Civil War, the grist mill that General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray had established on Beaverdam Creek became the site of the first post station serving the present day area of Ray City, GA. This mill was originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” and in 1867 a post office established here was simply referred to as “Knight’s Mill.” In 1870 the United States Postal Service Guide indicated that the postmaster of Knight’s Mill received an annual salary of $12.   The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

RAY’S MILL POST STATION
In 1870, after the death of General Knight, Thomas M. Ray bought out complete ownership of the mill from his father-in-law’s estate. Thereafter the mill and the surrounding community became known as Ray’s Mill. Apparently from 1871 and 1875 there was no post office in operation at Ray’s Mill, and residents were again compelled to take their mail at Nashville or Milltown. In 1876 a local post office resumed operation and according to the Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters,  Henry Harrison Knight was appointed on June 6, 1876.  The United States Official Postal Guide of July, 1879 lists the post office at “Ray’s Mills,” Berrien County, Georgia, but the postmaster’s name is not given. The Georgia State Gazetteer, Business and Planter’s Directory for 1881-82 also lists the the Ray’s Mill post office. In the 1885 Official Register of the United States, H.H. Knight was again listed as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia. His compensation for this service was $36.25. Post Office Dept records appear to indicate  that H.H. Knight was reappointed as Postmaster on May 22, 1886.  His wife, Mary Susan Ray Knight, was officially appointed Postmaster on November 1, 1892.  Joseph O. Sirmans was appointed on October 2, 1899 and served for about a year.  On September 1, 1900 the appointment was given to William C. Johnson (Johnson married H.H. Knight’s daughter in 1907).  The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters documents that David J. Rigell was appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on March 8, 1901.  Ulysses A. Knight took over on August 12, 1902 and was later confirmed as postmaster. Josiah S. Rigell took the position on April 28, 1903.  Post office records seem to indicate that the post office at Ray’s Mill was discontinued effective March 31, 1904 and for a while the mail was sent to Milltown (now Lakeland).

Some local histories say David Rigell, a  merchant of Berrien County, was the first postmaster at Ray’s Mill.  The primary sources, timing and other factors indicate that this was not the case (see David Jackson Rigell ~ First Postmaster of Ray’s Mill? Maybe Not!), but that Rigell served as postmaster in the 1901. It is speculated that the death of General Knight left the position vacant until Henry H. Knight, son-in-law of Thomas M. Ray and nephew of General Knight took an interest in civil service.

In 1909, Eugene Ray reported that “Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman, young men, are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here,” in Ray City, GA. The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Charles Anderson was officially appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on February 6, 1909, and  the Official Register of the United States shows in 1909, Chas Anderson was earning, $82 a month or $984 a year as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill.  That sum might have been comparable to an annual salary of about $35,000 a year in 2007 dollars.

On April 1, 1920, James “Joel” F. Fountain  became the Acting Postmaster. His appointment as Postmaster was confirmed in the U.S. Senate on June 5th of that year. The following year the  Ray City Post Office made the state news when it was dynamited by “Yeggmen“.

The census of 1930  shows James F. Fountain continued as the Ray City postmaster.  James Arthur Grissett and Lacy Albert McDonald were employed as rural mail carriers at Ray City.

By 1934, Mamie E. Fountain, wife of J. F. Fountain, took over as Postmaster at Ray City.

In 1939, the Nashville Herald announced a vacancy in the postmaster position at Ray City:

The Nashville Herald,
February 2, 1939    Pg 1

Postmaster’s Exam Called for Ray City

      An open competitive examination will be held shortly to fill the position of postmaster of Ray City, according to an announcement from the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.
Applications for the examination will close on February 10th.  All who desire to take the examination for this place must file their application by that date.
The place and date of examination will be announced after the date for making applications is closed.
Complete information may be obtained by applying at the post office in Ray City.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

The U. S. Postal service and census records provide the following on subsequent Postal employees at Ray City.

Name Title Date Appointed
James Arthur Grissett Mail Carrier prior to 4/04/1940
Chloe Ann Johnson Asst Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
Garth L. Webb Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
William A. Garner Acting Postmaster 04/02/1955
William A. Garner Postmaster 08/06/1957
Mrs. Florence V. Garner Officer-In-Charge 05/08/1970
Timothy R. McLeod Postmaster 11/27/1971
Jeane U. Camp Officer-In-Charge 06/04/1987
Billy R. Cromer Officer-In-Charge 07/30/1987
Muriel S. Privett Officer-In-Charge 11/05/1987
Jeane U. Camp Postmaster 01/30/1988
Nancy Deloras Courson Officer-In-Charge 01/08/2003
Nancy D. Courson Postmaster 05/17/2003
Flora Parker Officer-In-Charge 07/26/2012
Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

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Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County

Bryan J. Roberts, and his brothers Nathan and John, were among Levi J. Knight’s company of men who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.  Many published accounts of the pioneer skirmishes with Native Americans at  William Parker’s place on the Alapaha River and at Brushy Creek have been related on the Ray City History Blog.

Here is the story the way it was told by B. J. Roberts 50 years after the event:

The Valdosta Times
May 14, 1887

INDIAN FIGHTERS

A Brief Account of the Fighting In This Section In 1836.

Mr. Bryan J. Roberts, father of Mr. W. K. Roberts of this place, is one of the pioneers of Lowndes, and has seen service as an Indian fighter in this and Clinch counties.  He is now in his 78th year and is spending the evening of his life very happily among his devoted children, having a few years ago divided a fine property among them, reserving for himself a sufficiency for his simple needs.  His children are all prospering and he is happy in seeing them happy.

In 1836 the rumors of depredations and murders by Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for the protection of their families and property.  Capt. Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged.

This company was on duty one hundred and five days, and during that time engaged in two bloody fights with the red skins.

In August, 1835, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown.  They carried his feather beds out into the yard; cut them open, emptied the feathers, cut and carried the ticks with them.  They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and $208.25 in money.

Capt. Knight’s company was soon on the trail of this squad and in a short time overtook them near the Alapaha river, not far from the Gaskins mill pond.  The sun was just rising when the gallant company opened fire on the savages. A lively fight ensued, but it soon terminated in the complete routing of the Indians, who threw their guns and plunder into the river and jumped in after them.  A few were killed and a number wounded.  One Indian was armed with a fine shot gun.  This he threw into the river and tried to throw a shot bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and was suspended over the water.  This bag contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which he recovered as well as all the other property taken from his house. The fine gun was fished out of the river and, afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.  In the fight Mr. Peters was shot with this same gun.  One buck-shot struck him just above the waist-band of his pants, passed through and lodged under the skin near the backbone. He was also struck by two shot in the left side, which made only slight wounds.  The Indian was not more than thirty yards distant when he shot him.  Mr. Peters recovered from his wounds in less than twelve months.

Having driven the Indians into the dense swamp beyond the river, Capt. Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy creek, in the Southwestern portion of the county.  When they arrived near that place, they heard a volley of small arms, and on arrival found that the battle had been fought and that the volley they heard was the last tribute of respect over the grave of their brave comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom.  Edwin Shanks and a man named Ferrell were also shot dead in the fight.  Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield.  Mr. Robert Parrish, Sr., who lives near Adel, had his arm broken by a bullet in this fight. The Indians lost 27 killed and a number wounded.  We have no account of any prisoners being taken.  The battle of Brushy Creek was fought in a low, marshy swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against the invincible courage of the Anglo-Saxon, and in five minutes after the fight opened there was not a live red skin to be seen.

From this place Capt. Knight marched his company to what is now Clinch county.  He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement took place, resulting in the killing of three and the taking of five prisoners. Mr. Brazelius Staten was dangerously wounded in this fight but finally recovered.

This ended the Indian fighting in which Capt. Knight’s company were engaged. Half a century has passed since then.  Nearly all the actors in that brief but bloody drama are at rest beyond the stars. A few of them are still among us, the valiant pioneers of this country, who bared their breasts to the bullets of the savages in order that their descendants might possess this fair land in peace.

The following is a list, as near as can now be ascertained, of the living and dead of Capt. Knight’s company.  The company numbered 120 men, many of whom came from neighboring counties, whose names cannot now be recalled.

LIVING–Bryan J. Roberts, Moses Giddens, John Studstill, Jonathan Studstill, Aaron Knight, Guilford Register, Echols county.) David Clements, William Giddens, John and Nathan Roberts, Fla.) (Zeke Parrish, Lowndes county,) John McMillain, John McDermid and Robert Parrish.

DEAD–George Henedge, Jeremiah Shaw, Daniel Sloan, John Lee, Moses Lee, James Patten, William J. Roberts, Isben Giddens, Jacob Giddens, Elbert Peterson, John Knight, Thomas Giddens, Harmon Gaskins, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Sam Lee, Frederick Giddens, James Parrish, Martin Shaw, Archie McCranie, Daniel McCranie, Malcom McCranie, Alexander Patterson, James Edmondson, David Mathis, Thomas Mathis, Levi Shaw, William Peters, Jonathan Knight, Levi J. Knight and Brazelias Staten.

The Indians who passed through here belonged to the Creek Nation and were on their way from Roanoke to Florida to join the Seminoles.  They were first discovered in this county by Samuel Mattox, at Poplar Head, near where Mr. Tom Futch now lives.  Mattox was afterward hanged for murdering the fifteen-year-old son of Mr. Moses Slaughter.  Most of these Indians reached the Okeefenokee Swamp where they were joined by a large band of Seminoles.  From then until 1839 these savages did much damage to the white settlers in the vicinity of the Swamp, but in that year they were driven out and took refuge in the Everglades, where they were, with the exception of a small number, finally captured and sent to Arkansas.
Since the above was put in type another of the gallant old Indian fighters, Mr. Aaron Knight, has joined his comrades beyond the stars.

A 1915 reprint of this article also  noted “The Malcolm McCranie referred to was the father of Mr. Geo. F. McCranie, cashier of the Bank of Willacoochee and Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Coffee.”

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Coffee Road Led to Creation of Lowndes County

When south Georgia was first organized into counties in 1818, the area of present day Berrien County was originally part of  old Irwin.  The land lots and districts in Berrien County are still derived from the original plat of Irwin County.  As related in a previous post (see Coffee’s Road Passed Seven Miles West of Ray City, the earliest roads in Berrien County date from shortly after the formation of Irwin.  In writing on the local histories of Wiregrass Georgia counties, Folks Huxford made a number of references to the Coffee Road, portions of which are  excerpted below.

1822 Map Detail showing Irwin County, GA

1822 Map Detail showing Irwin County, GA

The Coffee Road

The first two roads to be opened up in the new County of Irwin were the Roundtree Trail and the Coffee Road. The former extended from Pulaski County across the headwaters of the Alapaha River and entered present Tift County near Tifton, and then down the Little River. However, the Coffee Road became the great thoroughfare of travel.

It was the main thoroughfare from the older settled portion of the state into South Georgia and  Florida; and practically all traffic from and into Florida west of the Okefenokee Swamp, was over that road.  It led from Jacksonville on the Ogeechee [Ocmulgee] River in Telfair County, southwesterly through the then county of Irwin (but now Coffee, Irwin, Berrien) through the then county of Lowndes (but now Berrien, Cook  and Brooks) into Thomas County and via Thomasville southwardly to the Florida line.

Coffee Road was opened up by the State under authority of an Act of the Legislature approved by Governor John Clark on December 23, 1822.  It was significant that the road commenced at Governor Clark’s home town, Jacksonville, GA, and that the two men appointed to superintend the construction, John Coffee and Thomas Swain, were neighbors of the Governor.  Swain was the operator of the ferry where the Coffee road crossed the Ocmulgee River near Jacksonville. Perhaps these three men foresaw the great stream of commerce which would flow down this road into south Georgia and Florida; and the political power of the time was in their favor.

The clearing of the road was undertaken at a cost of $1500.00  (see Coffee’s Road Passed Seven Miles West of Ray City. Enoch Hall, a Lowndes county pioneer and son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall, was an overseer in  laying out the route of the Coffee Road.   Ed Cone, a Coffee Road researcher, observed “Mainly, it was built with slaves and volunteers. Some also suggest that the militia was involved, I find no evidence of this. There was reported to have been about forty slaves that were assigned to this project and Gen. Coffee probably paid their owners for their use.

 The road was duly opened and became known as the ‘Coffee Road’ from the fact that Gen. John Coffee of Telfair County, one of the Commissioners, had charge of its opening.  It ran through the present counties of Berrien and Cook into Brooks and thence into present Thomas. It afforded the main highway of travel for some years down into Lowndes and Thomas and Decatur Counties and into West Florida.

Just two years after the opening of Coffee’s Road, Lowndes County was cut from Irwin. The area of Lowndes county was still a huge country which then included most of present day Berrien County and many surrounding counties.  In those early days of Old Lowndes County, most of the settlement had occurred along the route of Coffee’s Road, or else along the Alapaha and Little rivers.  It should be noted that the route of the Coffee Road was somewhat fluid, as the location of bridges and ferries tended to change over time. In 1854, the Coffee Road was made the boundary between Coffee County and Irwin County, but the Legislature soon realized “the said Coffee road is undergoing changes every year, and subject to be altered and changed by order of the Inferior Courts of said counties.

COFFEE ROAD WAYPOINTS

Jacksonville, GA    Milepost 0

Swain’s Ferry    Milepost ~3
According to Ed Cone, General Coffee, a resident of Telfair County, began work on his road in 1823 at Thomas L. Swain’s Ferry on the Ocmulgee River near Jacksonville, Georgia (Telfair County).  But at the 1831 July term of the Irwin County Inferior Court,  “William Matchett, Daniel Grantham, Sr. and Micajah Paulk, Jr., [were] appointed to lay out and mark a road beginning at Thomas Swain’s ferry and running to Lowndes County line to intersect Coffee road,” The statement, from the History of Irwin County , is confusing but perhaps suggests Swain’s Ferry was not the original Coffee Road crossing over the Ocmulgee.  By the January term, 1836, the “regular” route of the Coffee Road was over the Swain’s Ferry crossing and  Frederick Merritt, Andrew McCelland and Micajah Paulk were appointed commissioners on the section of road from Swain’s ferry to Marsh’s ferry on the Alapaha River.  If the remnants of the Old Coffee Road are still an indicator, Swain’s ferry was somewhere in the vicinity of Red Bluff or Mobley Bluff on the Ocmulgee River.

Leonard Harper’s Place    Milepost ~18

Micajah Paulk’s Place    Milepost ~28

Jacob Paulk’s Home-place    Milepost ~32 
Jacob Paulk’s Home-place was on the Coffee Road on a portion of Lot 10, 5th District of Irwin County, “about one mile north of Willacoochee Creek and six miles east of Ocilla. Paulks of America notes, “Paulk was described as having been a kindly disposed man, very hospitable and godly. He was the owner of many slaves of which he treated with kindness. He was ordained a deacon in the Brushy Creek Primitive Baptist Church.” Paulk was one of the builders of a great wolf trap near the church.

Willacoochee Creek Crossing   Milepost ~33 
As with other waypoints on the Coffee Road, the site of the Willacoochee Creek crossing necessarily changed over time.

Marsh’s Willacoochee Creek Ferry
In 1828, the Coffee Road crossed over Willacoochee Creek on Lot 381 in the 5th District of old Irwin County. Reuben Marsh, who located on this lot in 1828 established a ferry here.

Willacoochee Crossing on Lot 351
An 1869 map of Berrien County, GA faintly shows by that time the Coffee Road crossed over the Withlacoochee River on lot 351, 5th District. This crossing, bridge or ferry, was slightly north of the former Marsh’s ferry over the Willacoochee.

Micajah Paulk, Sr’s  Place    Milepost ~38 
At least by 1838, the route of the Coffee road went by the home of Micajah’ Paulk, Senior, between the river crossing over Willacoochee Creek and the Alapaha River. It seems from Irwin County census, tax, land and court records that there were at least three men in old Irwin County, GA  under the name Micajah Paulk.  One of these men, known as Micajah Paulk, Sr, lived in the fork above the confluence of the Alapaha River and Willacoochee Creek. While the relations of the three men are not easily discernible, it is clear that this Micajah Paulk, Sr. was NOT the father of the well-known Micajah Paulk, Jr whose property was on the east bank of the Willacoochee River on land lots 289, 290, and 310 of the 5th district in Coffee County, where the Union Primitive Baptist Church is located, five miles north of Luke Bridge, and whose home was also on the Coffee Road more than five miles to the north.

Glory, GA    Milepost ~41
Glory was a community that  grew up along the Coffee Road in Berrien county. In 1906 it was described as, “a post village on the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, about twelve miles northeast of Nashville, GA. It has some stores, which do a good local business, and does considerable shipping. The population in 1900 was 54.”

Irwin Courthouse Road Junction    Milepost ~42
This waypoint only lasted a year or two. From 1835, the next waypoint on the Coffee Road was the junction with the Irwin Courthouse Road. This road was ordered by the Irwin Inferior Court to run “from Irwin courthouse to Alapaha River at Marsh’s ferry.”  The January 1835 court appointed Shadrach Griffin, Ruebin Gay and Richard Tucker to lay out and mark the road. “At January adjourned term, 1836, commissioners were authorized to turn the road leading from courthouse to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha to near John Benefield’s on to Elisha Grantham’s ferry on Alapaha and strike Coffee road nearest and best way.”  Elisha Grantham’s Ferry apparently was upstream from Marsh’s Ferry on the Alapaha and provided a more direct route between the Irwin County Courthouse and the Lowndes County Courthouse.

Alapaha River Crossing    Milepost ~42
It again appears there were several crossings of Coffee Road over the Alapaha River, being in service at different places and times.

Marsh’s Ferry
William Green Avera stated that in the early days of the county, Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River at Marsh Ferry.   James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County  documents in numerous places that Reuben Marsh operated a ferry across the Alapaha River by 1835.  An Inferior Court order in 1842 appears to be a re-authorization of Marsh’s Ferry: “At the January term, 1842, an order was passed by the Inferior Court [Irwin County] an order was passed establishing a ferry across the Alapaha River at a place known as Marshes Ferry. The rates were fixed as follows: man and horse, twelve and one-half cents; man, horse and cart, twenty-five cents; two-horse wagon, fifty cents; four-horse wagon, one dollar; pleasure carriages, one dollar; gigs, fifty cents; jersey wagons, thirty-seven and one-half cents; mules and horses, 3 cents per head; cattle, 3 cents per head, sheep and hogs, one and one-half cents per head; foot  persons, free. Rates to be advertised at ferry.”

Lopahaw Bridge
The General Assembly acted in 1836 to fund the construction of a bridge across the Alapaha River stating”it is all important that a bridge should be built across the Lopahaw, at or near Coffee’s Road.”  According to the Legislative Act authorizing the Coffee Road, it crossed the Alapaha “at or near Cunningham’s ford on said river.”  In 1836 a public bridge was constructed over the river, but this bridge was condemned at the January 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court.

 

Tyson’s Ferry
At the 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court, according to James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County“Cornelious Tyson was granted authority to erect a ferry on Alapaha River on the Coffee road at the location of the condemned bridge and he is allowed to charge the following rates: man and horse, six and one-fourth cents; horse and cart, twenty-five cents; four-horse wagon, fifty cents; horse and buggy, thirty-seven and one-half cents.”  An  1869 District Survey Plat of Berrien County places Tyson’s Ferry on Lot

 

Cornelius Tyson’s Place   Milepost ~44.0
Cornelius Tyson’s home place according to 1836 Irwin County court records was on or near the Coffee Road.  His property as shown in the county tax records of 1831 and 1832 included Lots 422 and 424 in the 5th Land District of Irwin County. Lot 424 straddled the Alapaha River and Lot 422 was just southeast of the river.  His place was within the area that was later cut into Berrien County in 1856, Tyson being one of the five marking commissioners appointed by the state legislature in 1856 to fix the boundary lines of the newly created Berrien County. He was one of the original Inferior Court judges of Berrien County. Cornelius Tyson is enumerated in Berrien County, GA as Cornelius Tison in the Census 1860.

The Kirby Place    Milepost ~53
Farm and residence of William Kirby and Amy Griner Kirby.  The Kirbys were married in Bulloch County, GA in 1822 and came to Lowndes County, GA about 1829 settling just north of Mrs. Kirby’s parents“on the Coffee Road, one mile northeast of the present site of Nashville lCourt House]”. Mr. Kirby died in 1855. The widow Kirby’s place was the site of the first session of the Berrien County Superior Court held in November, 1856, according to William Green Avera.  Mrs. Kirby was a daughter of Emanuel Griner.

The Griner Place    Milepost ~54
Emanuel Griner in 1829 brought his family from Bulloch county to then Lowndes County, GA where he settled on the Coffee Road at the present site of Nashville, Berrien County.  His son, Daniel Griner, established a residence on land situated on the northwest corner of present day Marion Avenue and Davis Street.  Nashville, GA was founded about 1840 and in 1856,  was designated seat of the newly formed Berrien County. In that year, Daniel Griner sold a portion of his farm to the Inferior Court to become the site of the first Berrien County Court House.

Withlacoochee River Crossing   Milepost ~63
Likewise, the Coffee Road had multiple crossings over the Withlacoochee River, at different places and different times.

Futch’s Ferry
Futch’s Ferry was a later crossing at the Withlacoochee River on the Coffee Road.

Hutchinson Mill Creek Crossing  Milepost ~68

Among the earliest waypoints on the Coffee Road were the homes of David Mathis, Sion Hall, Daniel McCranie, Hamilton Sharpe, and James Lovett.

Mathis House Stagecoach Stop   Milepost ~69
In January 1826, David Mathis built a log home, a sturdy and comfortable home  for his wife, Sarah Monk, and family. This home was on the Coffee Road, one mile east of the present village of Cecil, Cook County. It was a stagecoach stop where the horses were rested. Many people in those pioneer days enjoyed the hospitality of the Mathis home. 

Frank’s Creek Crossing   Milepost ~71

Salem Church (Est. 1856)   Milepost ~72
Salem Methodist Church was built on then Coffee Road (now Salem Church Road) in 1856, on land that was deeded by Eli Driver Webb. The first trustees were Randall Folsom, Joseph T. Webb, William Varn, William D. Smith and Berry J. Folsom. It is believed that the first pastor of Salem was either Rev. Joseph T. Webb or Rev. Hamilton W. Sharpe, both local Methodist preachers of that era…The exact year this church was organized is unknown but it is believed that the original church building was a small log structure constructed near a spring fed branch behind the present 110-year-old home place of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Folsom.  – South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church

Public School (circa 1856)
“Many of the citizens of the community attended school in a one-room school across” 
Coffee Road from Salem Methodist Church “and, when needed, the church was also used for classroom space.”  – South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church– South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church

 

Junction with Franklinville Road   Milepost ~74
The Franklinville road joined the Coffee Road just east of Little River. It ran 11 miles east to Franklinville, founded 1827 as the first County Seat of Lowndes County. The connection provided a direct route from Franklinville to Thomasville, seat of Thomas County. 

Little River Crossing 

Joyce’s Ferry   Mile Post ~75
Washington Joyce’s Ferry over the Little River on the Coffee Road.  According to Robert Edward Lee Folsom’s 1889 Historical Sketch of Lowndes County,  In 1824… Washington Joyce settled on the east bank of the Little River, and built a ferry at what is now the Miller Bridge.  In this regard, it seems REL Folsom’s account may be confused. The route of Old Coffee Road west of Little River suggests that Joyce’s Ferry was at or near the location of the present day Hwy 122 bridge, not at the site of Miller Bridge.  Washington Joyce’s home site was the first white settlement in present [1899] Lowndes county. His father, Henry Joyce, had operated ferries across the Ocmulgee River,and the Oconee River.  An 1832 a bill introduced in the Georgia legislature seems to incorrectly place Joyce’s Ferry on the Withlacoochee River, said bill “to open and define a road from Hawkinsville, Pulaski County, through the counties of Irwin and Lowndes, the said road to be laid out and defined on the route now known as Roundtree’s Trail, to intersect Coffee’s road, at or near Joyce’s ferry, on the Withlockcoochee [Withlacoochee?].” Some time before 1840, Washington Joyce moved to Randolph County, GA.

Folsom Bridge
Replaced Joyce’s Ferry. Another waypoint on the Coffee Road, to the northeast of Hall’s Inn, was the Folsom Bridge,  where Coffee’s Road crossed the Little River.  William Folsom’s place was located about a mile and a half east of the bridge.

Miller Bridge    Milepost ~77 (on rerouted Coffee Road).
A later crossing over the Little River two miles down river from Joyce’s Ferry.  This southern route to present day Morven, GA would have  bypassed Hall’s Inn.

Hall’s Inn   Milepost ~77
The home of Sion Hall, who had settled in the territory of present day Brooks County near Morven immediately upon the opening of Coffee Road  in 1823, was the county’s earliest tavern.  Hall’s home was the place of the first Superior Court in Lowndes County, with Judge Thaddeus G. Holt presiding and Levi J. Knight foreman of the Grand Jury.   Being located on the only thoroughfare in the section, ” it was therefore accessible to other pioneers settling in the area.  When Lowndes county was being organized, the Georgia legislature designated Hall’s residence as the site for elections and county courts, until such time as a permanent site could be selected.  The Sion Hall home was situated about 1 1/2 miles northward from Morven, and was on land lot No. 271, in the 12th District of old Irwin County….  The home of Hon. Sion Hall was a public inn on the Coffee Road for many years, and many people stopped there for a meal or to spend the night, and the place found favor with the traveling public.  The Hall home was capable of accommodating as many as twelve or fifteen people at one time without inconvenience.  Overflow guests were allowed to sleep on improvised beds on the floor.  ‘Hall’s’ was always a stopping point usually for the night for judges and lawyers going from Troupville to Thomasville during the semi-annual court sessions.”

Pike Branch Crossing   Milepost ~78

Mount Zion Camp Ground
Near Coffee Road immediately south of Pike Branch.  According to a historical marker on the site, “The first Camp Meeting was held on this site in 1828 by a “few scattered Methodists” before any Methodist Church in the area was organized. William Hendry, William Blair and Hamilton W. Sharpe, as a committee, selected the site. Rev. Adam Wyrick was the first visiting preacher. In 1831 Sion and Enoch Hall deeded the land on which the Camp Ground stood to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Housed first in a brush-arbor, the weeklong meetings were held without interruption until 1881. Then the camp meetings ceased and the nearby church was built. Meetings were practically continuous each day from sunrise until after “candle-lighting.

McCranie’s Post Office
“The first post office in original Lowndes County was established in 1827 at the home of Daniel McCranie in present Cook County.  This was on the Coffee Road.  The Coffee Road was the main stagecoach route from the upper part of the state, and was also the mail route.” 
According to the Record of Connell-Morris and Allied Families, Daniel McCranie’s place was on Land Lot 416 in the 9th District of original Irwin County, GA. He purchased this land and built his home in 1824.

Sharpe’s Store   Milepost ~78
“The next point of interest on the Coffee Road after leaving McCranie’s post office was ‘Sharpe’s Store‘ which was in present Brooks County and situated some fifteen miles westward from old Franklinville  [approximately 25 miles southwest of the point where the Knights settled at the present day site of Ray City, GA]. Hamilton W. Sharpe, then a young man hardly in his twenties, had come down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home of Hon. Sion Hall at whose home the first court in Lowndes was held a few months afterwards.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home; that was in 1826.  He along with others expected that the permanent county-seat would be established there.  A post office was established at Sharpe’s Store in 1828.

Reverend Howren’s Place (1836)
Reverend Robert H. Howren brought his family to old Lowndes County in 1836 as conflicts with Native Americans were rising in Florida and Georgia.  The Howren’s settled on Coffey’s Road and became neighbors of fellow Methodist Hamilton W. Sharpe.

Sim Philips Place   Milepost ~83

 

Okapilco Creek Bridge   Milepost ~88
The 1827 Coffee Road crossing over Okapilco Creek was about ten miles west of Sharpe’s Store. Thomas Spalding, traveling with an expedition to survey the Georgia-Florida line, in his journal called this “the Oakfeelkee Bridge, which had been erected by Gen. Coffee;” the expedition crossed the bridge on March 30, 1827.  According to mapping done by the Wiregrass Region Digital History Project, this section of the Coffee Road followed a route south of present day Coffee Road, such that the 1827 Okapilco Bridge was about 1.5 miles down stream of the present Coffee Road crossing road over the creek.

Little Creek Ford   Milepost ~85
About a half mile west of Okapilco Creek the Coffee road forded a small tributary of Mule Creek.

Bryant Settlement   Milepost ~86
According to Robert Edward Lee Folsom, “The first white settlement in this [old Lowndes County] section was made on this [Coffee] road in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule creeks in Brooks county, at an old Indian town, by Jose Bryant, in 1823.”

Hendry‘s Mill   Milepost ~87
Another three quarters of a mile west at the crossing of Mule Creek was Hendry’s Mill. William Hendry and Nancy McFail Hendry brought their family from Liberty County, GA to Lowndes County (now Brooks) about 1827, and settled  in the vicinity where Coffee Road crosses Mule Creek, about midway between Pavo and Quitman, GA. William Hendry was one of the prominent citizens of Lowndes County in his day…his upright and godly life and character has been handed down, by word of mouth, to the present generation. The Hendrys seem to have had skill building and operating mills in Liberty County and again on Mule Creek in his new home. He erected the first water driven mill in this part of Georgia.  

Okapilco Baptist Church (Est. 1861) ~ Mile Post 89
Okapilco Baptist Church was organized on Feb. 21, 1861. This church was an important church in that it represented an early place of worship for the early settlers in that area.

Lovett’s Dinner House ~ Mile Post 97
Lovett’s Dinner House was about 10 miles west of Hendry’s Mill. “There were no further inns on the Coffee Road until James Lovett’s home and inn was reached, which was about fifteen miles east of Thomasville near the then Lowndes and Thomas county line.  Lovett’s was reached about noon after setting out from Hall’s after breakfast.  Most travelers stopped there for dinner, hence Lovett’s hospitable home was called a ‘dinner house.'”  According to Ed Cone’s Coffee Road website, “This dinner-house was operated by James Lovett and is located at the crossroad of the Salem Church Road and the Coffee Road about two miles west of Barwick, GA. James Lovett married Catherine (Katy) Zitterauer and they are the parents of Rachel Lovett who married James Cone. They are ancestors of a large Cone family in Thomas County. The “Lovett’s Dinnerhouse has been remodeled but still stands.”

Aucilla River Ford  Milepost ~103
About five miles west of Lovett’s place the Coffee Road crossed over the headwaters of the Aucilla River.   Thomas Spalding, traveling Coffee Road on an expedition to survey the Florida-Georgia boundary,  recorded in his journal on March 31, 1827, “crossed the Ocilla [Aucilla] a small stream where we crossed it, a few miles below, we understand it swells into a lake, after receiving 3 or 4 streamlets from the west.”

Mr. Horn’s Place
Thomas Spalding recorded in his journal on March 31, 1827, “At Mr. Horn’s near one of the streams of this river [Aucilla], we met with good land, and some extension of improvement, he had resided here 6 years, and was a fine looking old man. — He had been forted, and was just taking down the palisades, erected as defence against the Indians. We were now in the vicinity where the late Indian murders were committed, and we had confirmed from his lips that we had previously heard, that these deaths and plunderings, and expence, were produced by two scoundrel young men; who had stolen some Indian horses, and fled into South Carolina with them, their names were known, and if they themselves are not living here, their brothers are. Their circumstances are familiar to every one — yet the law sleeps.

Thomasville, GA  Milepost ~110
On December 24, 1825, …. Five commissioners were named to select a county seat for Thomas, purchase a land lot or land lots, and lay off lots for sale to the public. These early commissioners were Duncan Ray, William J. Forson, Simon Hadley, Sr., Michael Horn, and John Hill Bryan (who was probably “Thomas” Hill Bryan ) …The commissioners purchased lot 39 (in the 13th district of old Irwin) next to the Kingsley place from Thomas Johnson for $210, and this site was declared the county seat.  One Aaron Everett was employed to lay off and survey a courthouse square and other adjacent lots. Soon these lots were sold at public sale but brought low prices.  Consequently, on December 22, 1826, an act of the legislature declared ‘the courthouse and jail of said County of Thomas is hereby made permanent at a place now known and called by the name of Thomasville, and shall be called and known by that name.’ By 1827 Thomasville was an outpost in a pine wilderness. A courthouse was built of roughly split pine logs. In November, 1827, Superior Court was held, and Judge Fort sentenced three Indians to be hanged for murdering Phillip and Nathan Paris, white men who lived in the Glasgow District of the county. Moreover, there were a few dwellings. E. J. Perkins had a home and grocery. Nearby was another home, and James Kirksey operated a store, although this soon burned. One of the first important stores was run by Simon A. Smith and his son. Other families moved in and in 1831 the small settlement was incorporated. Isaac P. Brooks, Edward Remington, Malcolm Ferguson, James Kirksey, and Murdock McAwley were appointed commissioners for the town. – Ante-bellum Thomas County, GA

Duncanville, GA Milepost ~122
Said by REL Folsom to be the southern terminus of the Coffee Road in Georgia.  According to the Table of Post Offices, in 1830 Duncanville was one of only two post offices in all of Thomas County, GA. The postmaster was William Coggins.

1861 letter envelope addressed to W. D. Mitchell, Duncanville, GA

1861 letter envelope addressed to W. D. Mitchell, Duncanville, GA

 

Georgia-Florida Boundary.   Milepost ~125
About 15 miles south of Thomasville.

Tallahassee, Florida        Milepost ~145

 

Construction and Maintenance of Coffee Road

“The Coffee Road was maintained by road-hands in the various counties through which it passed, and was in no sense a state road as would be understood nowadays.  The only part the state had was in the opening of it before people ever settled in the territory through which it passed. Gen. Coffee, at the expense of the State, employed a crew of men, some thirty or forty, free-labor, and with the help of state surveyors, projected the road through a wild and uninhabited territory.  It was just wide enough for two vehicles to pass and was not ditched or graded as is done at present (roads never had ditches until after the Civil War and very few then for many years). “

The streams were either “forded” or crossed by means of ferries owned by private individuals.  Fares for ferries were fixed in each county in those days by the Inferior Court.  In times of high water the streams which were “forded” would often “swim” the horse and vehicle for two or three days and at times even longer, and only those on horse-back could have any reasonable hope of making a trip without interruptions.  There were no bridges on any of the streams until after the Civil War.

The 1829 Gazetteer of the State of Georgia, in describing the road from Milledgeville to Tallahassee, stated:

“This is a stage road once a week. Fare $25. Leaves Milledgeville on Wednesdays… The road via Jacksonville and Thomasville is [246 miles] and is destitute of water for many miles.”

Using a historic standard of living for comparison, the $25 fare would have equated to about $612 in 2010 dollars.

Charles Joseph La Trobe, an early traveler on the Coffee Road, wrote about his experiences in 1837.

Charles Joseph La Trobe, an early traveler on the Coffee Road, wrote about his experiences in 1835.

In 1833, Charles Joseph La Trobe, an English traveler and writer, rode from Tallahassee, FL to Milledgeville, GA  via the weekly stagecoach.  Before departing Tallahassee, La Trobe apparently sampled the local hospitality:

In referring to Tallahassee beverages, the traveler [La Trobe] described the mint-julep, mint-sling, bitters, hailstone, snowstorm, apple-toddy, punch, Tom and Jerry and egg-nogg. He was about to give the recipe for mint-julep when he used the following language: “Who knows, that if you get hold of the recipe, instead of being an orderly sober member of society, a loyal subject, and a good Tory; you will get muzzy, and hot-brained, and begin to fret about reform, and democratic forms of government, – doubt your bible – despise your country – hate your King – fight cocks, and race like a Virginian – swear profanely like a Western man – covet your neighbors’ goods like a Yankee speculator – and end by turning Radical Reformer!”  –Thomasville Times, Jun. 22, 1889 — page 7

Despite his warnings to others, La Trobe made notes on the recipes of these concoctions for his own personal use. One wonders if the aftereffects of too much ‘Julep’ were not causative of the ill description of the trip to Milledgeville in his book, “The Rambler in North America:

“…we were well aware that there was some sore travelling in advance.  The roads through the south of Georgia are in the roughest state. The public vehicle which, as it happened, we had all to ourselves, rattled however over the country, when practicable, at the heels of a pair of stout young horses, from stage to stage, with a good-will and rapidity, which would have been very satisfactory, had the impediments in the roads and in the state of the crazy carriage permitted constant advance; but we only reached Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia, after three days and nights of incessant travel and that after a goodly proportion of breakdowns and stickfasts, besides having to wade many deep creeks and swim one or two.
The streams were all flooded and ferries and bridges were seldom seen and I would rather take my chance for swim than pass over the rocking and fearful erection they call a bridge which under that name span many of the deep rivers on the road nearer the coast, and however rotten, are seldom repaired till some fatal accident renders the repair imperative.  Yet the coolness with which the coachman, after halting for a moment on the edge of the steep broken declivity, and craning forward to look at the stream in advance, broad, muddy, and rapid, running like a mill-race, will then plunge into it with his horses, descending down till the water covers their backs, is admirable.  On these occasions we always thought that a preparation to swim was no sign of cowardice, and made our precautions accordingly.  From all this you may gather that travelling in the South is still in its infancy, and I may add shamefully expensive.  You pay exorbitantly for the meanest fare.
Of the scenery, I need say but little.  A great proportion of our route lay over an uninteresting pine-covered country, but there were frequent towns springing up along the line which will doubtless become more and more frequent…’

Prior to the opening of the Coffee Road in 1823, there were very few pioneer families in all of Irwin County ( then encompassing present day Lowndes, Thomas, Worth, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Coffee Lanier, Tift, Turner, Ben Hill, Colquitt, and parts of Echols and Atkinson counties). Folks Huxford dated the earliest settlement of present day Brooks County. originally part of Lowndes, as occurring in 1823 after the Coffee Road was opened.

“The influx of settlers was so great that within two years after the Coffee Road was opened up there had moved in approximately two hundred families, so that the southern half of the county [of Irwin] was cut off and made into the new County of Lowndes.

Mapquest Route connecting remaining sections of Coffee Road.

Mapquest Route connecting remaining sections of Coffee Road.

Big Thumb McCranie was First Postmaster of Lowndes

On this date, one hundred and eighty-five years ago, March 27, 1827, the first post office in Lowndes County was established at the home of Daniel McCranie on the Coffee Road. The McCranie post office, situated on the only real “road” in the county, was perhaps a fifty mile round trip  from the point to the east where Levi J. Knight settled, at present day Ray City, GA.

Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie had come to this area of south Georgia in the winter of 1824 or 1825. This was before Lowndes County was created out of parts of Irwin County, and about the same time that William Anderson Knight brought his family from Wayne County. Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie, ‘of full Scottish blood and fiery temper,’ was known to still wear a kilt on certain occasions.

Did Daniel McCranie have Brachydactyly?
His nickname, ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie, might indicate that Daniel McCranie had brachydactyly type D, a genetic condition that affects 1 out of a 1000 people, commonly known as clubbed thumb or toe thumb. Brachdactyly captivated the attention of the entertainment media in 2009-10, when movie star and superbowl headliner Megan Fox was identified with this condition. The word brachydactyly comes from the Greek terms brachy and daktylos. “Literally, what it means is short finger,” says Dr. Steven Beldner, a hand surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center.  “The nail of the thumb in this condition is often very short and wide.”  “It is usually hereditary,” Beldner explains. “Although it could also have been caused by frostbite, or it could have been an injury to the growth plate in childhood.” Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/brace-megan-fox-imperfection-actress-thumbs-article-1.196125#ixzz1qGndhWsv

McCranie, Daniel 1772-1854

Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie was born in North Carolina in 1772, a son of Catherine Shaw and Daniel McCranie, R.S.  His father had immigrated to North Carolina from Scotland and fought with the Cumberland County Militia during the American Revolution.

About 1793, young Daniel McCranie married  Sarah McMillan, daughter of Malcolm McMillan of Robeson County, N. C.

To Daniel and Sarah were born:

  1. Neil E. McCranie, born 1794, married Rebecca Monroe. Moved to Florida.
  2. Mary McCranie, born 1795, married John Lindsey, son of Thomas Lindsey.
  3. John McCranie, born 1797, married Christiana Morrison, daughter of John Morrison.
  4. Daniel McCranie, born 1800, married Winnie Lindsey, daughter of Thomas Lindsey.
  5. Malcolm McCranie, born 1802, married Elizabeth Parrish, daughter of Henry Parrish.
  6. Duncan McCranie, born 1805, married (unknown). Lived in Liberty Co.
  7. Nancy McCranie, born 1808, married Robert N. Parrish.
  8. Archibald McCranie, born 1810, married a cousin, Nancy McMillan.
  9. William McCranie born 1812, married Melvina Beasley, daughter of Elijah Beasley.
  10. Elizabeth McCranie, born 1815, married Sampson G. Williams

Daniel McCranie’s parents moved from Robeson County, North Carolina, to Bulloch County, GA about 1800 and shortly thereafter, Daniel and Sarah also brought their family to Georgia, moving to Montgomery county sometime before 1802.   He was a Justice of the Inferior Court of Montgomery County and was commissioned Jan. 17, 1822.

It was on December 23 of that year, 1822, that the Georgia General Assembly appropriated $1500.00 for construction of  a frontier road to run from a point on the Alapaha river to the Florida Line.  General John E. Coffee and Thomas Swain were appointed “to superintend the opening of the road,  to commence on the Alapaha at or near Cunningham’s Ford” and running to the Florida line near the “Oclockney”  river. The route, which became known as Coffee’s Road, was an important for supply line to the Florida Territory for military actions against Indians in the Creek Wars, but also quickly became a path for settlers moving into the south Georgia area.

In a previous post (see Pennywell Folsom fell at Brushy Creek), historian Montgomery M. Folsom’s  described General Coffee’s ‘road cutters’, his hunters Isham Jordan and Kenneth Swain, and the Wiregrass pioneers that honored them with song.  Isham Jordan, along with Burrell Henry Bailey and others had worked to survey and mark the first public roads in Irwin County.

About Coffee’s Road,

“This road was a great thoroughfare and many a hardy settler has packed his traps in a cart drawn by a tough pony, and driving his flocks and herds before him has traversed the lonely pine barrens in search of a more generous soil and greener pastures.”

About 1824,  Daniel and Sarah McCranie moved their family from Montgomery County and settled on Coffee’s Road in the lower section of Irwin County .  The place where they settled was Lot of Land No 416 in the 9th district of Irwin County. In 1825 this section of Irwin was cut off into the new county of Lowndes.  (In 1856, this property was cut into Berrien, and in 1918 into Cook County.)

The McCranie’s home served as the first post office in original Lowndes County. Known simply as  “Lowndes,”  the post office was established March 27,1827, with Daniel McCranie as the first postmaster. That arrangement lasted only a year, as the following year the Lowndes county seat was established in the new town of Franklinville, GA. The post office was moved to Franklinville and William Smith became the new postmaster (see Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers).

In the Indian War in 1836,  Daniel McCranie provided forage for the local militia. It is said that five of McCranie’s sons fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek, serving in Captain Hamilton W. Sharpe’s Company, of the Georgia Militia. The Battle of Brushy Creek, was among the last military actions against Native Americans in this area.

Sarah McCranie died about 1842. Her grave is the earliest known burial in Wilkes Cemetery.  Following her death, Daniel McCranie  married Mrs. Kittie  Holmes Paige in 1844. She was the widow of James Paige of Jefferson County, GA.  Kitty Holmes was born Jan. 2, 1802, in Duplin County, N. C., and moved with her parents to Washington County, GA, in 1812.  In 1818 she married Silas Godwin and by him had one son, S. B. Godwin, who became a resident of Berrien County. After divorcing  Silas Godwin she had  married James Paige of Jefferson County, Ga., and lived with him twenty years until his death. By James Paige she had two children, one of whom, Allen Paige, became a resident of Lowndes County.

Kitty joined Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church, Lowndes (now (Berrien) County on October 17, 1850.  A month later Daniel joined, on November 16, 1850.

Daniel McCranie died in 1854 and was buried in the Wilkes Cemetery in present Cook County. After his death, Kittie left Pleasant Church for New Salem Church, Adel, Georgia.  Kittie McCranie died in 1889 and was buried beside Daniel at Wilkes Cemetery.

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