1899 Sketch of Old Lowndes County

In 1856, Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes County, GA. Long before that all of this section, including Lowndes was encompassed in the original county of Irwin. The following is a sketch of the first 75 years of Lowndes County.

The Valdosta Times
October 14, 1899

Historic Sketch of Lowndes County
Written by R. E. L. Folsom

Old Irwin county was composed of sixteen districts, and included the present counties of Thomas, Brooks, Worth, Colquitt, Berrien, Lowndes, Clinch, Echols, and Irwin.  Out of this territory, about 1826, the counties of Thomas and Lowndes were formed, in the south-west and south-east portions respectively.  Lowndes included all of the present counties of Clinch and Echols, and most of the territory of Berrien, Colquitt and Brooks.  Clinch was formed first, then Berrien; then Colquitt; then Brooks; the Echols.

            The county of Lowndes was organized, and the first court held, at Frances Rountree’s on what is now [1899] known as the Remer Young old place, in the year 1827.

    Old Franklinville was the first permanent count seat, founded about the year 1827.  It was located on the Withlacoochee river, near where the skipper bridge now stands.  It was a fine location, from a natural standpoint, and had one of the best springs of water in this county.  It never amounted to much as a business location.  The first clerk of the county court of ordinary was William Smith.

            One among the first representatives of the county was Randall Folsom, from 1832 to 1833.  He was followed by Hamilton Sharpe.

            About 1838, the county seat was moved to the fork of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers, and named Troupeville, in honor of Gov. Troupe.  It was not a picturesque, or even attractive spot for a town, and today a bleak and barren sand ridge, with its scattered clusters of cactus and pine saplings, is all that is left to mark this historic old spot.  It was a great rendezvous for the devotees of fun and excitement and carousal, and a detailed history of the place would furnish every variety of incident, from deeds of heroism down to the most ridiculous escapades.  Troupeville was a considerable business point.  Of the merchants who did business there in the old days, were Moses and Aaron Smith,  E. B. Stafford,  Uriah Kemp, and Alfred Newburn.   The first physician in this section of the country, Dr. Henry Briggs, located there, and put up a drug store.  He built up a very extensive practice, which he kept to the end of his long life.  In those days there were no bar-rooms, as we now find them, but all the merchants, excepting M. & A. Smith, sold liquor.

            Two good hotels were kept here, one by William Smith, who was a master of his trade, and the other by Morgan G. Swain

            The first county surveyor was Samuel Clyatt.  He was succeeded by  Jeremiah Wilson, who held the office, with the exception of one term, till about the close of the civil war.

Judge C. B. Cole was one of the first judges of the superior court.  He was followed by Judge J. J. Scarborough.  It was under Judge Scarborough that Judge A. H. Hansell made his first appearance here, as solicitor general.  He succeeded  Judge Scarborough as judge of the superior court.

            About 1847, occurred the first murder trial in this county.  It was the trial of Samuel Mattox for the murder of a boy by the name of Slaughter.  He was found guilty and hanged for the crime.

            About the year 1859, upon the building of the old Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, now the S. F. & W., this county seat was moved to Valdosta.  The place was named in honor of the home of Gov. Troupe, which he called Val-d’Osta.  This was about the same time that Brooks county was organized.  Shade Griffin was representative at this time, and has the bill passed creating Brooks county.  As he lived on the east side of Little River, the boundary was run so as to put his place in Brooks, where it is said to be yet.

            The merchants who began business in Valdosta at its founding, or soon after, were Thomas B. Griffin, Adam Graham, Moses Smith, jr., Henry Briggs, A. Converse, Capt. Bill Smith,  W. H. Briggs, and the Varnedoes.

The first public road ever cut through this country, was the old Coffee Road, cut out by Gen. Coffee, on a contract from the state.  It began at Jacksonville, on the Ochmulgee River, and ended at old Duncanville, in Thomas county, on the east line.  The first white settlement in this section was made on this road in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule creeks in Brooks county, at an old Indian town, by Jose Bryant, in 1823.   The next settlement was also made on this road, by Sion Hall, near the present site of Morven.  It was here that the first court for the original Irwin county was held.  This settlement was made in 1824.   In the same year, Washington Joyce settled on the east bank of the Little River, and built a ferry at what is now the Miller Bridge.  This was the first white settlement in present Lowndes county.  Next to him came Drew Vickers and Lawrence Folsom and a man named Baker, who built a ferry on the Withlacoochee River, where the Williams bridge now stands.

One of the highways in this section was the old stage road, running from Thomasville to Brunswick through Troupeville.  This was discontinued as a stage line about the year 1850.

In those old days, marketing had to be done at long range.  Not very much cotton was raised – all of the upland variety – but it had to be hauled to Fussell’s and Mobley’s Bluffs, on the Ochmulgee River, and goods hauled back in return.  The only real markets for this section were Tallahassee, Newport and St. Marks.  Going to market was an event in those days, and people went to buy only what was absolutely necessary.   Ah! Those were the happiest days of all.

There were large stock owners in this section, in those days.  There was a fine range and plenty of room, and the raising of stock was then a source of considerable income.  The most important stock raisers were Berry Jones, Francis Jones, Will Folsom, Randall Folsom, James Folsom, and James Rountree.

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John Gaskins, Pioneer of Old Berrien

John Gaskins (1802 – 1865)

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

 John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distant from today’s Ray City, GA location, settling there about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek.

John Gaskins was born June 29, 1802 in Warren County, GA. He was the eldest child of Fisher Gaskins and Rhoda Rowe, and a grandson of Thomas Gaskins, Revolutionary Soldier.  When John was around four or five years old, his parents  and grandparents  moved  the family back to Beaufort District, South Carolina, from whence they had originated.  The family appears there in Beaufort District in the Census of 1810. By the time of the 1810 enumeration, John Gaskins’ parents had given him four siblings – two brothers and two sisters.

But immediately following the birth of her fifth child, John’s mother died.  He was eight years old at the time.  His widowed father packed up the five young children and moved the family back to Warren County, GA.  There, on January 17, 1811 his father married Mary Lacy. Her father, Archibald Lacy, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and her brother was the Reverend John B. Lacy, who would later become a prominent  Primitive Baptist Minister.  Around this time John’s father was expanding his livestock business and began looking for good grazing land for his growing herds of cattle.

By 1812, John Gaskins’ father moved the family to Telfair County, GA where he acquired good grazing land for his cattle. His father and his uncle, David Gaskins, were very successful in the cattle business and soon had large herds, not only in Telfair County where they were enumerated in 1820, but also in Walton and other surrounding counties where good natural pasturage could be had.

Around 1821, the Gaskins again moved their families and cattle herds to the south, crossing the Ocmulgee River at Mobley’s Bluff and pushing into the new frontier of Appling County,GA.  John, now a young man of 17 or 18 years old, made the move with his family.  His uncle, David Gaskins, halted in an area of Appling County known as “The Roundabout”, situated in present day Atkinson County, where he found good range land for his cattle. John’s father took his herd across the Alapaha River into then Irwin County at a location that for many years was known as the John Ford.

The Fisher Gaskins clan, John’s father and his brothers, settled west of the Alapaha River a little south of present day Bannockburn, GA near the site of Riverside Church. On April 14, 1825  John Gaskins married Mary Pollie Barrow in Irwin County, GA.      This was about 15 miles north of the area where the Knights and Clements were settling their families above Grand Bay, near present day Ray City, GA.  John and Mary Gaskins established their homestead just to the north of his father’s place. By the end of 1825, the Georgia Legislature divided Irwin County and from the southern portion formed the new county of Lowndes.

On August 11, 1826 Mary Gaskins delivered to John his first son, Gideon Gaskins. A second son arrived on February 16, 1828, whom they named Fisher Jackson Gaskins; Fisher – after his paternal grandfather, and Jackson perhaps after Andrew Jackson, the Hero of New Orleans who would be elected President that year.

John Gaskins appeared as a head of household in Lowndes County in the Census of 1830, as did his father, Fisher Gaskins.  About 1829 or 1830, John’s father moved his cattle across the county and settled on Lot 91 of the 9th Land District, which was subsequently known as the Chambliss place, and later became the home of George D. Griffin.

About 1831 a contagious disease struck Fisher Gaskins’ herd, killing off several hundred head of cattle and inciting the elder Gaskins to seek new pastures yet again. With the help of hired hands, among them a young John G. Taylor, he drove his remaining cattle into North Florida to settle in the area of Alachua County, FL.   John and Mary stayed behind in Lowndes County (now Berrien), as well as John’s brothers,  William and Harmon.

“When he moved to Florida, he [Fisher Gaskins] left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

Cattlemen like John Gaskins sold their Berrien County livestock at points like Savannah, GA or  Centerville on the St. Mary’s River, or Jacksonville, Florida.

John Gaskins fought in the Indian War 1836-1838, serving in Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company.   Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote,  “His home was visited  by the savages on one occasion while the family was absent, and a good deal of vandalism and theft was committed.”   John Gaskins and his brother William were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

At age 38, John Gaskins and family were enumerated in the Census of 1840, still living in the northeast area of old Lowndes county now known as Berrien County. His brother, William, was living next door, and nearby were the homesteads of David Clements and William Clements, and other early settlers.

In 1850 the Gaskins remained in  Lowndes County.  Enumerated nearby the Gaskins home place were the residences of General Levi J. Knight, William Patten, Hardeman Sirmans, David Clements, Moses C. Lee, and other early settlers. John Gaskins was a farmer, with $600 in real estate.

Around 1855 the Gaskins were involved in some sort of public disturbance in Lowndes county.  Hardeman Sirmons, Benjamin S. Garrett, Drewry Garrett, Will Garrett, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Gideon Gaskins, and Lemuel Gaskins were all brought before the Lowndes Superior Court for their involvement in a riot.  In 1856, however, the Gaskins and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and placed in the new county of Berrien. The defendants were able to have their case  transferred to Berrien County in June of 1856, and apparently escaped serious consequences.

In the Census of 1860 John Gaskins appeared on the enumeration sheets listed next to Thomas M. Ray, who would begin construction of Ray’s Millpond just a few years later.

From 1858 to 1861, John Gaskins served as a Justice of the Peace in Berrien County.

During the Civil War five of his sons joined Georgia Volunteer Infantry regiments: Fisher J. Gaskins, William Gaskins, Lemuel Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Harris Gaskins, .

Children of John Gaskins and Mary Pollie Barrow:

  1. Gideon Gaskins, born 1826, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Knight (July 17, 1831 – February 03, 1902); buried Riverside Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.
  2. Fisher J. Gaskins, Sr., born February 16, 1828, Berrien County, GA; married Elizabeth Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died November 14, 1908, Berrien County, GA; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  3. John Gaskins, Jr., born January 16, 1830, Berrien County, GA; married Catherine Calder; died May 6, 1886.
  4. Emily Gaskins, born 1832, Berrien County, GA; married Joseph Newbern.
  5. William Gaskins, born March 5, 1833; married Elizabeth Clements, daughter of David G. Clements; served in Company I, 54th GA Regiment; died August 27, 1910; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  6. Lemuel Elam Gaskins, born 1836, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Ann Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment;  died October 26, 1862, Richmond, VA; buried Richmond VA, memorial marker at Riverside Baptist Church.
  7. Joseph Gaskins, born April 28, 1840, Berrien County, GA; married Harriet Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died February 4, 1911; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  8. Harmon Gaskins, born 1842, Berrien County, GA; died young.
  9. Harrison  “Harris” Gaskins, born April 5, 1842, Berrien County, GA.; married Roxanna “Roxie” Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans, on April 17, 1862; served in Company K, 29th GA Regiment; died January 7, 1926; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church
  10. Bryant Gaskins, born 1846, Berrien County, GA

Clinch County News
April 23, 1937

John Gaskins – 1802-1865

Oldest son of Fisher Gaskins by his first wife. Came to Berrien while a youth, grew to manhood here. His wife was a daughter of Joseph Barrow… Immediately after their marriage John Gaskins and his wife settled on the Alapaha River a short distance north of the old home of his father and near where Bannockburn now is, and there they spent their entire married life together.   The death of John Gaskins occurred at this home July 18, 1865; and 23 years later, January 6, 1888 his widow joined her husband in the spirit-land, at the age of 83.  Both are buried at Riverside Cemetery and their graves are substantially marked. They were the parents of a large family of sons and daughters and their living descendants in this county to-day are very numerous.

John Gaskins was a man who spent his life at home and gave his time and attention to his avocation.  The farm was made self-sustaining; work was the rule and grim want never came to stare the inmates of this farm-home in the face.  Food for family and stock was well and abundantly supplied and the excellence of the range went a long way in helping him to provide meat for family and lay up money from the sales of beef-cattle.  Deer and turkeys were plentiful and could be taken at any time. Fish abounded in the river and with all of these good things around life on the frontier was not so bad after all.  Hogs grew almost wild in the hammocks and only required a few weeks’ finishing off with corn or field crops to be ready for slaughter. Cattle were let to go at large all the time except they were penned regularly for about six weeks during the months of April and May so that they may be marked and branded and kept under control; and the annual sale of these beef-cattle brought the gold in their homes against the rainy-day and old age.

John Gaskins took part in driving the last of the wandering bands of Indians from Georgia soil, and one of the last engagements with the redskins fought on Berrien county soil took place near the home of this old pioneer.  His home suffered from Indian predations to the extent that the feather beds were taken out, the ticks ripped open, the feathers emptied and scattered and the ticks carried away with some other articles of the household.  Some of these articles were recovered, among which was a beautiful pitcher which had been treasured as an heirloom for many years.  The place where the pitcher was recovered after it had been cast aside by the Indians in their flight across the Alapaha River, is known to this day among the local inhabitants as “Pitcher Slough.”

Following the death of John Gaskins in 1865 his sons Fisher J. and John, Jr. served as the administrators of his estate.

Milledgeville Federal Union
August 21, 1866 — page 4

Georgia, Berrien County.
Two months after date application will be made to the Court of Ordinary of said county for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John Gaskins, Sen., deceased, for the benefit of the heirs and creditors of said deceased.
F. J. Gaskins,
John Gaskins, Jr.   Adm’r’s.
July 2d, 1866.        WEC       50 9c

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