In 1908, the opening of the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave Ray City, GA residents a transportation access to the world, and a convenient connection to towns on the G & F route. Among those with a Ray City – Willacoochee connection was Arthur Shaw, son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, of Ray City, GA. Arthur Shaw, a native of Ray City, spent most of his life at Willacoochee, GA.
Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien County Historical Society, contributes the following:
The commissary at Shaw’s Still was operated by Lacy Shaw. Lacy later ended his partnership with Arthur and farmed near the home place of his parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, in Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road. About 1917 he sold his home to Pleamon Sirmans and moved into Ray City and operated a hardware store there before moving to Valdosta about 1927 or so.
The location of the turpentine operation was actually about a mile or so south of Springhead Methodist Church in Atkinson County. The terminus of the Pinebloom railroad which ran through Willacoochee was at Shaws Still which is shown on the early 1900 railroad maps. The intent at one time was for the Pinebloom to terminus at DuPont, however the extension was determined to be financially unsound and it was given up. Very little is visible of the old Pinebloom railroad bed between Willacoochee and Shaws Still. The terminus of the railroad was about where the Henderson Lumber Company had its operation, near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road. The still site is no longer visible and is on a private hunting preserve now.
The Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad, originally called the Fitzgerald, Pinebloom & Valdosta, was a logging road and occasional common carrier owned by the Gray Lumber Company.
[Benjamin B. Gray, a principal of the Gray Lumber Company and the OP & V, was a brother-in-law of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong. Furlong committed his first murder while employed at Gray’s sawmill at Pinebloom, and thereafter wreaked mayhem up and down the line of the Brunswick & Western Railroad.]
The 52-mile Lax-Pinebloom-Nashville line was completed in 1901-03.
In 1906, the FP&V sold the section south of Pinebloom to the Douglas, Augusta, & Gulf Railway (which was controlled by the Georgia & Florida). The FP&V continued to operate the tracks north of Pinebloom. (Pinebloom was a flag station on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad a mile east of Willacoochee with a 1896 population of about 200. The Gray Brothers saw mill was its largest enterprise.)
The line was renamed the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad in 1910, and in 1915 the Henderson Lumber Company gained control.
The 1918 Report of the Georgia Railroad Commission listed the OP&V as a 27-mile line between Gladys, a point on the Ocilla Southern Railroad, and Shaw’s Still, which was about nine miles southeast of Willacoochee. Two years later the Commission indicated that the OP&V had been dismantled and listed its successor road, the Willacoochee & DuPont, as a 9.5-mile line between Willacoochee and Shaws Still.
In 1915, when the Henderson Lumber Company acquired the Ocilla, Pinebloom, & Valdosta Railway, it ran from Gladys to Shaw’s Still. In 1918, the Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad purchased the line and reportedly abandoned the tracks between Gladys and Willacoochee the following year (or used them only for logging or hauling naval stores and turpentine). It continued to operate the eastern and southern section of track from Willacoochee to Shaws Still, but apparently was not able to extend the line past Shaws Still to DuPont, a town on the Atlantic Coast Line in Clinch County. In 1922, this track too was abandoned.
The Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Arthur Shaw’s life, loves, and business dealings:
- Preacher Shaw and the Berrien Blue Jays
- Cauley Hammond Shaw was Ray City Police Chief
- Lacy Lester Shaw
- The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection
- Boys Lost in the Swamp
- The Ray City Skin Game
- Tragedy at Possum Creek
- Howell Shaw at Sedalia Army Air Field
- Rachel Shaw Moore Dies of Typhoid Fever