Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

After the territory of south Georgia was opened with cutting of the Coffee Road, the Georgia Legislature acted on December 23, 1825 to  create Lowndes County.  It was around this time that the Knights first came to Lowndes county and settled in that portion which was later cut into Berrien County.    In the Act creating Lowndes County, the legislature directed that “the place of holding the Superior and Inferior Courts, and elections for county officers…shall be, for the county of Lowndes, at the house of Sion Hall.” The first Courts and first elections in Lowndes County were held at the house of Sion Hall,  who built an Inn on the Coffee Road.

On November 30, 1826, the county site of Lowndes County was changed from the house of Sion Hall to the house of Francis Rountree,” according to the Digest of Georgia.

In 1828 William Smith’s place on the Withlacoochee River was chosen as the county seat. A courthouse was constructed on this site and a town, named Franklinville, was platted.

But an article from the Savannah Georgian dated July 12, 1827 suggests a courthouse was constructed in Lowndes prior to 1828. Did this article refer to Hall’s Inn, situated on land lot No. 271, 12th District, about 1 1/2 miles north of present day Morven, GA?  Or to the home of Francis Rountree? Or was a courthouse constructed at William Smith’s place prior to the incorporation of Franklinville?

Either way, the article documents that sinkholes were a part of pioneer Georgia.

July 12, 1827 A sinkhole was reported at Franklinville, GA

July 12, 1827 A sinkhole was reported at Franklinville, GA?

Savannah Georgian
July 12, 1827

Natural Curiosities. – Travellers in the low country have related to us the following facts:
     A spot of earth, about an acre in extent, near the court house in Lowndes County, suddenly gave way not long since, and sunk to the depth of a hundred feet!  The place is now covered with water, the trees standing as they grew – the tallest pines being 20 or 30 feet below the level of the surrounding country.  Small ponds like this are frequently met with in the lower part of the state, and are called Lime Sinks – produced probably by the action of subterraneous streams.
     In Thomas county, the waters of two creeks, at their junction, formerly made a lake of considerable size, and then ran off in a large rivulet.  But about a year and a half ago, the water of the lake found a subterranean outlet – the bed of the rivulet, as well as the whole lake, has become entirely dry and covered with luxuriant grass, &c. The lake disappeared so suddenly, that tons of fishes, terrapins, and alligators totally unapprised of its intentions, were left behind.
     Travellers speak of the large Ponds or Lakes in Florida, as objects of curiosity. In Armonia Pond are several large Islands, said to be floating!  A circumstance is mentioned of an individual having purchased a small Island, in this pond, which, when he went the second time to see, could not be found! He afterwards heard of it in another part of the lake several miles from where he left it.
     Jackson Pond, in Florida, is said to be increasing in extent – the earth on the margin having settled; or, from its outlet becoming obstructed, the quantity of water having accumulated.  Fields and orchards cultivated but lately by the Indians, are now entirely under water – the tops of the peach trees being nearly covered.
     We have given the above particulars as they are stated to us; and from the respectability of their sources we have no doubt of their being substantially correct. An inquiry into the causes of these operations of Nature, will be an interesting employment for the admirerer of nature’s Works.

Macon Telegraph.

Postmaster Hamilton W. Sharpe Takes Offense

Hamilton W. Sharpe

Hamilton W. Sharpe was a pioneer settler of Lowndes County and a contemporary of Levi J. Knight, who settled at the site of Ray City.  The two fought together in July, 1836 actions against Indians which occurred in this immediate area including the Battle of Brushy Creek and actions on Warrior Creek  in what was then Lowndes County (now Berrien and Cook counties,) Georgia.

Sharpe first came to Lowndes via the Coffee Road:

As has been discussed, one of the first roads of any kind to be constructed through south Georgia  was the Coffee Road, built by General John Coffee in 1823.  It was a “road” only in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.   

One of General Coffee’s overseers in the laying out of the road was Enoch Hall, a son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall.  The Halls were among the very first settlers in the area of Irwin County that became Lowndes county by an act of the Georgia Legislature, December 23, 1825. At July , 1824 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court July term, 1824, Sion Hall, James Allen, and Thomas Townsend were appointed to lay out a road from Ocmulgee River to Alapaha River.

Sion Hall established a tavern on the Coffee Road, about two miles north of present day town of Morven,GA and his brother, John Hall, operated a liquor bar there.

In 1826, Hamilton W. Sharpe, then a young man hardly in his twenties, came down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home and traveler’s inn of Sion Hall.  It was at Hall’s Inn that the first court in Lowndes County was held a few months afterwards.  Sharpe along with others expected that the permanent county-seat would be established there.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home.    Thus, Hall’s Inn and Sharpe’s Store  were situated approximately 25 miles southwest of present day  Ray City, GAthe site first settled by the Knight family in the winter of 1826.

In 1828, Hamilton W. Sharpe obtained the establishment of a U. S. Post Office at his store, for which he was appointed Postmaster.  The Sharpe’s Store Post Office served Wiregrass Pioneers for almost 25 years.

<strong>Post marked Sharpe's Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.</strong><br />The Sharpe's Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the

Post marked Sharpe’s Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.
The Sharpe’s Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the “Whig Rascals” in Alabama, and on the politics of Georgia. Of the men running for Governor he wrote: “Judge [Edward] Hill probably drinks no more liquor than Towns though he has been called a horrid drunkard.” (George W. Towns won by aggressively endorsing “southern rights” and playing to fears about Congressional interference with slavery.)

 

In December of 1846, Hamilton Sharpe responded to a letter to the editor published in the Savannah Daily Republican, written by a subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes County, GA. Okapilco was on the mail route from Franklinville via Sharpe’s Store to Bainbridge, GA. Without naming names, this subscriber appeared to be complaining about the way Postmaster Sharpe charged postage due on the mail, the selection of mail routes, the infrequency and irregularity of the mail service, even the quality of the conveyance by which the mail was delivered. To these criticisms Hamilton Sharpe took great offense, and his written, point-by-point response was in turn published in the Republican, transcript below.

Sharpe's Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, Dec. 28, 1846.

Messrs. Editors. – My attention has been called by a friend, to a letter in the Republican of the 9th inst., from a correspondent of yours, writing from “Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” over the signature of a “Subscriber.”

I notice the letter, first; because therein is an evident intention to censure some Post Master in this vicinity and secondly, because the writer has made statements which are not facts.  The writer says, “we are now, (a recent thing,) charged ten cents on single letters from your city, and though these letters are originally stamped five vents, by the Post-Master at Savannah, &c., yet on their arrival in this county, an additional five cents is placed over the original by some little powers that be, &c.” Now if your “Subscriber” intends this as a charge against this office, I flatly deny the fact, and will appeal to the way-bills from Savannah, and the Post-Master at that place to sustain me.  If a letter is received from Savannah at this office, charged with five cents only, I feel myself bound, in the discharge of my official duty, to mark the letter “under charged,” and add an additional five cents, which I may have done, but as to “placing an additional five cents over the original,” it is not allowed by this “little power that be.”

Again, he says “there are two routes from Savannah, one via Darien not over two hundred miles.” He must be very ignorant of the rout over which the mail travels “via Darien,” or he would not risk his love of truth in such a glaring assertion.  It had not even been a doubt in my mind whether it is not more than three hundred miles from this to Savannah even by the route via Darien; but as I had no means of ascertaining the precise distance, I was disposed, if I erred at all, to err on the side of the public, and consequently charged five cents on all letters not exceeding half an ounce in weight, until by general consent (“Subscriber” exempted, I suppose,) the mail was changed on the other route, which every body knows to be four hundred miles and upwards.

In 1845, I corresponded with Mr. Schley, the Post-Master, in Savannah, on this subject – a gentleman whom I have ever considered as worthy of the confidence of the public – and I am persuaded that he has said in good faith in discharge of his duty, and will not deny but what his way-bills, are invariably, since the change was made in the rout, charged ten cents on all letters from his office to this.

This gentleman, the “Subscriber” from “Okapilco,” whoever he is, seems to be very censorious. He wants the mail oftener, &c., and who does not? But how are we to get it, by writing to you a letter of censure and compalints, embellished with a few of his little “cat’s paw” flourishes of wit, implicating the conduct of Post-Masters, in the discharge of their official duty?  If this is the way we are to get a change in our mail arrangements, it will present a new aspect to matters and things in the Post Office Department, and besides he will not get many to follow in his walks.  But let him go to work at the right place, instead of censuring the “little powers that be” – let him supplicate the law-making power, and his course will be considered by all to be more open and generous at least, and no doubt he will gain the co-operation and influence of the community at large.

Why arraign the Post-Master General in this matter – we have as many mails now as we had under former Administrations, and get them as regular, and there is as few complaints, and as few causes of complaints.  Perhaps “Subscriber” wants a mail route established for his own especial benefit, twice or thrice a week, and then he would be “blest by the light spreading influence emanating from Cave Johnson’s Express,” sure enough.

What does “Subscriber” means by the “news carrying quadruped” – is it the contractor, the old sulky, the old gray horse that draws the sulky, or little Barney who rides and drives?  I am sure little Barney is a faithful little soul to his business, and as often as the old gray has failed, he has as often obtained a substitute – and where is the cause for this notorious letter from “Subscriber.”

I am at a loss, Messrs. Editors, to know which looks the worst to a man “up a tree,” “little men in big places,” or big men in little places. If “Subscriber” is acquainted with “Euclyd,” perhaps he may solve the question himself. Does “Subscriber” know what the new Post Office law is, with regard to this matter? If he does not, he had better inform himself on the subject. It is found on the first page of the new “Post Office Laws and Regulations,” beginning with the first clause, and if he cannot understand its mystifications, let him employ a lawyer.

I will now take leave of your “Subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” who, it seems, would seek some notoriety at other men’s expense, but who is very careful to conceal his real name.

HAMILTON W. SHARPE.

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Magnum Post Office Briefly Served Pioneers of Old Berrien

Lowndes County, GA,  1839

After south Georgia was first opened to settlers in the 1820s, the federal government established post offices to serve the pioneers.  But for many years, the  Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers were few and far between.

As of 1836 there were only two post offices in all of Lowndes County, GA, an area which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties. These post offices are shown on the 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.

In 1836 area settlers traveled to post mail either at the county court house at Franklinville, GA, or at a post office on the Coffee Road which existed only briefly in Lowndes County. Contemporary accounts give the name of this post office as Mangum, although the 1839 Burr postal map, the official U. S. Postal Service Record of Appointment of Postmasters, and List of the Post-Offices in the United States give the name as Magnum.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes. (Detail of 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.).

Actually, the Burr map was out of date by the time it was published in London in 1839.

In 1836, the Franklinville post office was located near  the Withlacoochee River about 10 miles southwest of the homestead of Levi J. Knight at Beaverdam Creek (now the site of Ray City, GA).  But in 1837 this post office was transferred another 12 miles farther southeast to Troupville, GA when the county seat was relocated to the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers.

The Magnum post office, as shown on the 1839 Burr map, was situated  another 15 miles to the west of Franklinville, GA.  Prior t0 1836 it was been known as the Sharpe’s Store post office, where Hamilton Sharpe served as postmaster and operated his country store on the Coffee Road. Sharpe, who had become busily engaged with politics and with the Indian Wars, stepped down as post master in 1836. The Sharpe’s Store post office was renamed Magnum post office, and John Hall, Sr. took over as postmaster effective April 1, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
April 28, 1836

THE POST-OFFICE, at “Sharpe’s Store” Lowndes county, Georgia, has changed its name to that of Mangum and John Hall Esq. has been appointed postmaster.

Postmaster John Hall, Sr. was a brother of Sion Hall.  Sion Hall, one of the very earliest settlers of Lowndes (now Brooks) county, had established a tavern on the Coffee Road about 1823.   Sharpe’s Store had opened about four years later near Hall’s Inn, which served as the first site of Superior Court meetings in Lowndes County.

The Magnum, or Mangum, Post Office was short-lived, though. Postal records show that on January 28, 1837 the name reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton Sharpe resumed as post master. Sharpe served as postmaster until 1848, and the Sharpe’s Store Post Office continued under other postmasters until closing in 1853.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum  and Sharpe's Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum and Sharpe’s Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

After the post office moved from Franklinville to Troupville in 1837, the Knight’s and other early settlers of the Ray City area had a round trip of about 44 miles to get their mail.  The round trip to  the post office at Sharpe’s Store was about 50 miles, although it was may have been on the better travel route via the Coffee Road. But for the Knights, the bustling town of Troupville, with its social happeningstravelers and ramblers, commerce and trade, religion and  politics, court proceedings, legal affairsamusements, hotels and inns, was undoubtedly the preferred destination. On the other hand, Hamilton W. Sharpe, like Levi J. Knight, was a political and military leader of Lowndes County, and the two are known to have had frequent associations.

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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.

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

McCranie’s Post Office    Milepost ~64
“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.

Richard Parr Hutchinson’s Place     Milepost ~65
A Brother-in-law of William Smith, innkeeper at Franklinville and Troupville. In 1850 Richard Parr Hutchinson settled three miles east of where the village of Cecil now is, on the Coffee Road. In time he acquired several thousand acres of land and had a large stock of cattle. At the close of the war he had forty-eight slaves that were emancipated, thus losing much of his accumulated estate. Among his real estate was the old Hutchinson’s Mill and the millpond which is still bears his name. 

William T. Varn’s Place    Milepost ~67
In 1836, in company with his brother, Frederick Varn, the two families moved from their old home in Colleton County, SC to Lowndes county, GA and settled a few miles apart…William T. settled on the Coffee Road about 1 1/2 miles east of the present village of Cecil, GA. -POWG Vol III

Hutchinson Mill Creek Crossing  Milepost ~68

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

Frederick Varn’s Place
In 1836 Frederick Varn brought his family from Colleton County, SC to settle near present Salem Methodist Church. After about three years, Frederick Varn moved on to Florida. -POWG Vol III

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
Captain John J. Pike was a son-in-law of Sion Hall. Pike led a company of men in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek. He died in 1837 in Lowndes County, GA at the age of 39.

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.

 

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.  According to the January 8, 1859, issue of the Georgia Watchman the Duncanville District was the location of the plantation of General Thomas E. Blackshear, who commanded the 69th Regiment, Georgia Militia in the Indian Wars of 1836.

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.