Marsh’s Ferry, the Lopahaw Bridge and Tyson Ferry

One of the early roads in Berrien County described by William Green Avera was, “the road from Milltown northward to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha. This road pass[ed] by the residence of the late John Studstill, first sheriff of Berrien County, later the home of Joe Studstill, his son; Stony Hill, the old residence of the late Moses C. Lee; Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine still; the residence of the late J. H. Rowan [and] the residence of his widow, Mrs. Phoebe Rowan; the residence of the late William Gaskins — the grandfather of the late Alvah W. Gaskins of Nashville, GA.”    At  Tyson Ferry,  the Milltown road intersected the Coffee Road.

Alapaha River was crossed by the Coffee Road at this site.

Monday, June 19, 2017, Julian Fields led a field trip to the site where the ferry on the old Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7_-0AzgKgw

It was the 1823 opening of the Coffee Road that led to the creation of Lowndes County, which then covered a vast area of Wiregrass Georgia including present day Berrien County, GA.   When  John Coffee first cut his road through the wilderness, there were no ferries or bridges over the creeks and rivers.  Early travelers forded water crossings as best they could. The WWALS Watershed Coalition documents a number of waypoints, creek and river crossings on the route of the old Coffee Road.  The route of the Coffee entering present day Berrien County from the north first crossed the Willacoochee River, then traversed the Alapaha river  at Cunningham’s Ford. With seasonally high water, these rivers were no doubt difficult if not impossible to cross. 

Within a few years ferries were established over the Willacoochee and the Alapaha for the convenience of Coffee Road travelers.

According to Huxford’s “Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia” Vol. 2, Reuben Marsh moved to Irwin County about 1828 and settled in the 5th district on land Lot 381 which straddles the Willacoochee River.  There he established a farm and ferry apparently to serve travelers on the Coffee Road. 

Enhanced detail of Irwin County survey plat District 5 showing location of land lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek. Reuben Marsh established a ferry over the Willacoochee in 1828.

Enhanced detail of Irwin County survey plat District 5 showing location of land lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek. Reuben Marsh established a ferry over the Willacoochee in 1828.

Marsh, an early settler of Irwin County,  was one of the Commissioners appointed by the legislature to fix the location of the county seat, Irwinville.

It appears that sometime prior to 1836, Reuben Marsh acquired land Lot 424.

At January term, 1836 [Irwin County Inferior Court], Daniel Luke, Hezekiah Walker and Mathew Merritt, appointed commissioners on road leading from courthouse to Widow Mobley’s and intersect there with Coffee Road, also Frederick Merritt, Andrew McCelland and Micajah Paulk, appointed commissioners on Coffee road leading from Thomas L. Swain’s ferry to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha.

 

At January adjourned term, 1836, commissioners were authorized to turn the road leading from [Irwin County] courthouse to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha to near John Benefield’s on to Elisha Grantham’s ferry and strike Coffee Road nearest and best way.

THE LOPAHAW BRIDGE

In 1836 the Georgia Assembly provided partial funding for the construction of a public bridge over the Alapaha River. Later records of the Inferior Court of Irwin County indicate  Tyson Ferry was put into service to replace this bridge .

1836 Georgia Act to construct a bridge across the Lopahaw River

1836 Georgia Act to construct a bridge across the Lopahaw River

 

       AN ACT, To appropriate the sum of eight hundred dollars, to build a Bridge across the Lopahaw.
      Whereas, it is all important that a Bridge should be built across the Lopahaw, at or near Coffee’s Road, and whereas, the citizens are unable to build the said Bridge, and whereas, a subscription is on foot to raise or contribute eight hundred dollars which is thought will be about one half of the amount necessary and requisite to build and erect a substantial Bridge, for remedy whereof:
       Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is enacted by the authority of the same, That Jacob Polk of the county of Irwin, Daniel Grantham, Sen’r. John McMillon, be and they are hereby authorized to draw and appropriate the sum of eight hundred dollars, for the purpose of building a Bridge over and across the Lopahaw, at or near where the Coffee Road crosses the said river, and for the repair of Coffee’s Road.
       Sec. 2. Be it enacted by the authority of the same, That the said Commissioners shall give bond and sufficient security for the faithful discharge of their duty, and properly to expend the aforesaid sum for the erection of said Bridge.
        Sec. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That His Excellency the Governor, be, and he is hereby authorized and required, on the receipt of said bond as before required, to pay the amount of eight hundred dollars to the said Commissioners aforesaid, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.

JOSEPH DAY,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
ROBERT M. ECHOLS,

President of the Senate.
Assented to, Dec. 26, 1836.
WILLIAM SCHLEY, Governor.

It appears that the Lopahaw bridge was not constructed on the direct path of Coffee Road over the Alapaha, for at the February 1838 term of the Inferior Court of Irwin County marking commissioners were appointed to lay out a route which bypassed the ford and proceeded over the public bridge, rejoining Coffee road after the crossing.

At February term, 1838, Jacob A. Bradford, John Harper and Leonard Jackson, appointed commissioners to lay out and mark road, leaving Coffee road near Cornelius Tyson’s to public bridge on Alapaha, thence to intersect Coffee road
at or near Micajah Paulk’s, Sr. 

The  Irwin County Tax records of 1831 and 1832 show Cornelius Tyson’s Irwin County property included Lots 422 and 424 in the 5th Land District of Irwin County. 

1831-1832-Cornelius-Tison-tax-records-Irwin-County-GA

1831 – 1832 Irwin County, GA property tax records of Cornelius Tyson

 

 

When the  Inferior Court of Irwin County next met road commissioners were appointed for Coffee Road, to include the new routing over the public bridge.

At July term, 1838, Leonard G. Jackson, Shaderick Griffin and Andrew McClelland, appointed commissioners on road, commencing at C. Tyson’s to public bridge on Alapaha, then to intersect Coffee road near Micajah Paulk’s, they to commence at county line and ending at district line.

There is reason to question just how long this bridge remained in service, for in 1841, Georgia experienced a severe, wide-spread flood known as the Harrison Freshet:

In the early part of March, 1841, after President Harrison’s inauguration, the big fresh occurred west of the Oconee, and the Ocmulgee, Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, and all other smaller streams, contained more water and produced greater damage than ever known. In this section the last inundation was also called the Harrison freshet; hence the confusion that arose many years afterwards in distinguishing which was the proper Harrison fresh. The discrimination was, however, distinctly recorded at the time of the occurrences. The fresh of May and June, 1840, while the convention was held at Milledgeville, was named by the Democrats, “The Nomination Freshet,” and the fresh of March, 1841, was also named by the same “unterrified” authority “The Harrison Inauguration Freshet.” An iron spike was driven into the western abutment of the [Macon] city bridge by Mr. Albert G. Butts, denoting the highest water ever in the river down to that time, March, 1841. The spike still remains, and is inspected at every freshet in the Ocmulgee. – Historical Record of Macon and Central Georgia

The flood of the 1841 Harrison Freshet is known to have washed away bridges on the Alapaha River.   “Few bridges on the common streams … stood the shock.” The Milledgeville Federal Union declared it a 100 year flood.  The “extraordinary flood…caused awful damage in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina” with major erosion, land slides, “roads rendered almost impassable, and plantations disfigured with enormous gullies.”  At Troupville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County, the town was inundated, the flood setting a high water mark on the old cypress tree there which set a record , according to the March 28, 1897 New Orleans Times-Democrat, which was not surpassed for 56 years.

Whether or not the Lopahaw Bridge weathered the 1841 storm is not known, but  James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County states,

        “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.
At same term of court a ferry was established across the Willacoochee where Coffee Road crosses said creek and the above rates shall govern said ferry.

 

Clement’s History of Irwin County relates that “the public bridge” over the Alapaha was condemned at the January 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court.

TYSON FERRY

At the same 1856 term of 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.” 

Cornelius Tyson was one of the five marking commissioners appointed by the state legislature in 1856 to fix the boundary lines of the newly created Berrien County.  Cornelius Tyson is enumerated in Berrien County, GA as Cornelius Tison in the Census 1860.

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Virgil Griner receives teaching license from W. G. Avera, 1915

James Virgil Griner (1896-1951)

Virgil Griner, circa 1912-1915.  Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Virgil Griner, circa 1912-1915. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

In October, 1915 William Green Avera wrote James Virgil Griner, of Nashville, GA to inform him of his license to teach third grade.  Avera, the Berrien County School Superintendent, lived about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA.  The notification was on the official letterhead of the office of the County School Superintendent and listed the members of the school board.

1915 Berrien County Board of Education

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

William Green Avera, Superintendent – pioneer educator of South Georgia taught in Berrien, Lanier, Cook and Lowndes counties;  born August 1, 1855; son of Steven Willis Avera and Martha Elizabeth Akins; largely self-educated; married first Eliza Jane Sirmans, second Margaret McMillan; elected 1907 as Berrien County School Commissioner an re-elected to three subsequent terms; died January 10, 1944; buried Avera Cemetery.

 

 

 

Alexander W. Patterson, Berrien County, GA

Alexander W. Patterson, Berrien County, GA

Alexander W. Patterson, President, Nashville, GA –  born February 22, 1857 in Lowndes County, GA; son of James Duncan Patterson and Elizabeth McCranie; married Ella T. Lindsey February 10, 1884;  teacher; merchant; Berrien County Ordinary, Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County; chairman of the Berrien County Agricultural Society, 1900.

 

 

 

 

Malcolm L. McMillan, Berrien County, GA

Malcolm L. McMillan, Berrien County, GA

Malcolm L. McMillan, Brookfield, GA   – born October 24, 1853, son of Archibald McMillan and Margaret Young; married Narcissa Henderson; planter and merchant; scribe Masonic Lodge No. 47, Tifton, 1904; Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County, 1904; commissioner Berrien County Board of Education, 1901, 1905, 1906, 1915; vice president Farmers Club of Berrien County, 1905; delegate Southern Cotton Growers’ Association convention, 1906; president Berrien County division of the Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Georgia, 1906; board of directors, Merchants’ and Farmers’ Bank of Tifton, GA, 1906; board of directors , National Bank of Tifton, 1907-10; died May 1, 1933; buried Turner Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery 

 

 

 

Sankey Booth, Berrien County, GA

Sankey Booth, Berrien County, GA

Sankey Booth, Adel, GA – born May 5, 1877; son of the Reverend Irwin R. Booth and Margaret Rives Knowles; married Mamie Shaw 18 Nov 1906;  pioneer school teacher and administrator of south Georgia; Berrien County School Board, 1914-15; Atkinson County School Superintendent, 1918-1920; Ray City School superintendent, 1924-25; Principal, Morven School, 1917, 1925-26;  Principal, Cecil School; died October 29, 1965;  buried Adel cemetery, Cook County, GA.

 

William Manning Pafford, Berrien County, GA

William Manning Pafford, Berrien County, GA

William Manning Pafford, Milltown, GA – born December 12, 1869; son of Rowan Pafford and Frances Corbett; married Della Holland on February 08, 1900; merchant; constructed Lee-Banks Hotel, Milltown, GA, 1905; Mayor, Milltown, GA, 1915; Georgia House of Representatives, 1923-24;  Commissioner, Milltown Airline Railway, 1927; died February 8, 1930; buried Lakeland City Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

 

 

 

John Henry Rowan, Berrien County, GA

John Henry Rowan, Berrien County, GA

John Henry Rowan, Nashville, GA     -born May 15, 1862, Coffee County, GA; son of William Berry Rowan and Roseanna Porter; married Phoebe America Knight June 17, 1886;  built Reedy Branch School, Berrien County, GA; Postmaster, Hill, GA; Judge, Berrien County, 1904; Notary Public, 1904-1905; Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County, 1904; candidate for Berrien County Commissioner, 1910 and 1912; died August 31, 1921, Berrien County, GA; buried Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

1915 letter from Berrien County School Superintendent William Green Avera to James Virgil Griner

1915 letter from Berrien County School Superintendent William Green Avera to James Virgil Griner

 

Nashville, GA   10/12 1915

Mr. J. V. Griner
Nashville, Ga.
Dear Virgil
Please write Mr. J. E. Rowe Alapaha for the New Home School. It is a good school.

You made license – 3d grade General Elementary. Please let me know.

Sincerely,
W. G. Avera

The letter was received by Virgil’s father, Joe H. Griner, who forwarded the information on to Virgil at Tifton, GA.

Envelop of letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, postmarked October 15, 1915, Alapaha, GA

Envelop of letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, postmarked October 15, 1915, Alapaha, GAa

~

Letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, dated October 15, 1915

Letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, dated October 15, 1915

 

Nashville, Ga
Oct 15th, 1915

Dear Virgil I will sende your letter to you. I got it yesterday. Virgil it isent any use to say any thing about the letter. You can reade it and come on. Virgil you come to Roetown Sunday.  It is there big meeting time out there and I will meet you out there if I can. You come to Allapaha Sunday and go on down to meeting.

Very truly

Joe H. Griner

http://berriencountyga.com/

Joseph Henry Griner, (1856-1934) Berrien County, GA

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Watson Grade News Feb 12, 1904

“Trixie”  continued the reports on Watson Grade in the February 12, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette.  Watson Grade  was a small community near Empire Church just northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA.  It was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others. Like the January Watson Grade News   this February update included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten, as well as reports of marriages and social news.

Tifton Gazette
February 12, 1904

Watson Grade News

The farmers are making big preparations for another crop-buying mules and clearing new grounds.
    Mr. Editor, your solution of the fertilizer question in last week’s issue is the only one that the farmer of today is actually in touch with. The farmers, not being systematically organized, are dependent in selling their products and buying their general supplies, and the only way to surpass this stupid state is for each and every farmer to work to the end of not having “everything to buy.”  Raise it at home; we have all the necessities if we will only use a little energy.
    Mr. M. C. Lee killed a porker last week that weighed 486, net.
    Mrs W. C. Patten has been quite sick with pneumonia, but is improving.
    Mr. J. P. Patten and Miss Fannie Patten were united in marriage Sunday afternoon at the home of the bride’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Patten, near Milltown.  The bride is a sweet and lovable girl, and member of one of Berrien’s best families. The groom is an industrious young farmer of near this place.
    Inspector Tyler was in Milltown last week, looking after some rural routes from that place.  Of the three routes proposed, only two have the required number of families, the one passing through this place and the one through the Ray’s mill vicinity.
   Mr. Will Rouse and Miss Elsie Spell were united in marriage Wednesday afternoon, January 27th, at 3 o’clock, at the home of the bride’s parents, Judge J.  H. Rowan officiating. Both have many friends, who wish for them a long and prosperous journey through life.
    Mr. Jonah Register is quite sick with grippe at this writing.
    Mr. June Patten left last week to take charge of a school near Alapaha.
    Mr. Jos. Watson, who has been suffering with cancer for some time, is improving.
    Prof. W. G. Avera expects to move his family to Atlanta in a few days, his object being to educate his children.  Mr. Avera is one of Berrien’s oldest and best educators, and one of our best neighbors, and we see him go with much regret.

TRIXIE.

1904-feb-12-watson-grade-news

Additional Notes:

Moses C. Lee, a son of Elender Wetherington (1813-1889) and John Levy Lee, was one of the leading farmers of Berrien County.  His daughter, Jennie Lee, was the wife of Sam I. Watson. About 1917 his son, William David “Bill” Lee,  ordered a mail-0rder house from the Sears catalog, which he assembled just east of Ray’s Mill.

Mrs. William C. Patten in the article is Sarah E. Lee, a cousin of M.C. Lee mentioned above.  She was a daughter of Moses Corby Lee (1808-1884)   and  Jincy Register.

John P. Patten  was a son of James Patten (1832-1907) and Phoebe Mathis (1832-1898).  His bride was Fannie Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten  and Martha F. Williams (1847 – 1897). The Mrs. M. E. Patten mentioned in the article was Fannie’s  step-mother Minnie Archibald Patten.  John P. Patten died in 1911 and is buried at Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Will Rouse, of Rays Mill, and Elsie (or Elda?) Spells, of the 1300 Georgia Militia District, were married on January 27, 1904. The couple later made their home at Ray City for many years. The marriage ceremony was performed by Judge J. H. Rowan.  According to William Green Avera, the Judge’s place was on the road “from Milltown to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha.”  This road passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County; Stony Hill, residence of Moses C. Lee; and, Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine Still.

Jonah Register, son of John Register, was a young farmer of Berrien County, GA. He was suffering from grippe, a historical reference to the flu.  He later married Jane Cook, sister of Laura Cook and daughter of William Jackson Cook.  In the 1920s Jonah and Jane Register made their home in Ray City, GA.

Mr. June Patten was a son of Leanna and Irwin Patten.

Joseph Watson was the father of Samuel I Watson.

Professor William Green Avera was one of the most distinguished educators in Berrien County.

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