Old Union Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Burnt Church

   Located in present day Lanier County, GA, the old Union Church lies about 10 miles east of where Levi J. Knight settled on Beaver Dam Creek (now Ray City, GA).  It was the first church to serve the pioneer settlers of this region.  L. J. Knight’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight , were among the organizing members of the church.  Built on land provided by Jesse Carter, the church was originally referred to as Carter’s Meeting House, and later designated Union Church.

The church and cemetery  were on a trail used by the Creek Indians traveling between the Chattahoochee River and the Okefenokee Swamp.  During the Indian Wars, 1836-1838,  the church building was partially burned.  The fire-damaged timbers were used in the reconstruction, and since that time Union Church has also been known as Burnt Church.

  “Union Baptist Church, on the Alapaha River ….was constituted October 21, 1825, the first church in the old area of Irwin County.  The original members William A. Knight; his wife, Sarah; Jonathan Knight; his wife, Elizabeth; Joshua Lee; his wife, Martha; James Patten; his wife, Elizabeth; Mary Knight; Josiah Sirmans, deacon.  The Rev. Matthew Albritton served the church as its first minister.”

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

In Pines and pioneers: A history of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1825-1900,  author J. T. Shelton gave the following description described a Big Meeting at Union church:

“The old church had a door on every side for easy access, a rostrum along one wall with seats facing it from three directions. The arrangement allowed the seating of slaves on one side. With feet planted firmly on the wide floor boards, the congregation sat on the pews, each a single plank. The women of the church had scrubbed down with potash and homemade soap both pews and flooring, and the wood had a soft, silvery sheen. The pulpit was seven feet long, twelve inches wide and two inches thick; three to five preachers sat on a long bench behind the  pulpit until each had his turn to address the assembly. The exhorter then paced up and down the generous space provided, and he held forth for two hours before the next preacher had his chance. Listeners came and went; mothers carried out crying babies; little boys believed that they would starve to death before they could get outside to the loaded dinner tables that were as much a part of Big Meeting as the preaching.”

In 1928-30, The Clinch County News published a series of articles on the history of Union Church, portions of which are excerpted below:

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter I

Union Primitive Baptist Church, the mother of all the churches of this faith in this immediate section of Georgia, was organized or constituted October 1st, 1825.  The presbytery consisted of Elders Fleming Bates and Mathew Albritton.

As is well known, the church is located on the banks of the Alapaha River about 1 1/2 miles south of Lakeland formerly old Milltown.  It stands to-day where it has always stood for the past 108 years (1933). The cemetery close by contains the graves of many pioneers and old citizens of east Lowndes, southeast Berrien and western Clinch counties.  Baptisms have always taken place in the nearby river, it not being over one hundred yards from the church to the river.  A high bluff with a sharp bend in the river’s course is the visitor’s introduction after he has passed the church.  Several steady-flowing springs of fine drinking water are to be found on the banks, and eminating from the walls of the bluff.  Part of the bluff slopes off to the river’s edge at the river bend thus making an ideal place for baptism purposes.

The little log-house which was the first building on the site of the present church, had come to be known as Carter’s Meeting House prior to the organization of the church.  For some months prior it had been the scene of monthly meetings or services, and it was the expression of the desire of the settlers to have some kind of divine services in their midst, for there was not a church to be found of any denomination from the Altamaha River to the Florida and Alabama lines.  The settlers in this immediate vicinity were more numerous than in most of the settlements, and many of them Carters.  The meeting-house took its name from old man Jesse Carter and he probably gave the land and his boys had a hand in building the original log house to hold services in.   The earliest settlers had only been living here four years at the time, while the most of them had not living here hardly a year.  Knights, Carters, Giddens and Lees made up most of the settlers west of the river while on the east side of the river were to be found Tomlinsons, Sirmans and Fenders, Corbitts and Mathises.  Further down the river could be found the Wetheringtons, Swilleys, Peters, Walkers, and Roberts.

Elder William A. Knight, at that time a layman, was one of the leading spirits in the formation of the church.  As already stated it was Elders Bates and Albritton who presided at the organization of the church, but to “Old Father Knight” as many people called him in his lifetime, may be attribute more than anyone else the religious activities of the community in those days when the first settlers were moving in.  He led in prayer and in song, and when the preacher failed to keep an appointment because of lurking Indians, high waters or other providential hindrances it was Bro. Knight who took charge and carried on the service. Five years after the church was organized he was licensed to preach the Gospel and two years later (1832) he was ordained to the full Gospel ministry.

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 Union Church had been constituted under the auspices of the Piedmont Primitive Baptist Association, but by 1827 the establishment of a number of new churches prompted a desire to divide the association.  According to a history thesis by Michael Otis Holt,

On August 24, 1827, a council met in Thomas County, Georgia to determine the feasibility of forming a new association in the region. The council arranged for another meeting at Mt. Gilead Church in September and requested that all interested churches send messengers with a statement of faith and the date of their constitution together with names of the ministers taking part in it. The careful attention to detail was necessary, because many churches in the area had cut corners in their organization. An example is Shiloh Church in Ware County. In 1833, the Ochlocknee Association would not accept Shiloh Church because it was constituted “illegally.” However, the association did offer instruction on how to craft a new constitution, which Shiloh did. The council decided to go ahead with the plans for a new association. In October, 1827, the Piedmont Association, “received and read a petition from seven Baptist churches situated between the Alapaha and Flint River praying ministerial aid to constitute them into a new association.” The Piedmont set Matthew Albritton and Fleming Bates to oversee the organization of the Association. Both were members of Union Church, near present day Lakeland, Georgia, which requested and received dismission from the Piedmont to join the new association.

The association held an organizational meeting at Bethel Church in what is now Brooks County, Georgia, in November, 1827. Six churches took part in the constitution of the Association. Union Church, was almost certainly the church that joined at the first session of the new association, which called itself Ochlocknee. In the first year of its existence, the Ochlocknee Association claimed 138 members among its seven churches. The initial meeting went well and Bates and Albritton reported to Union Church that, ‘much harmony and love abounded.’ 

The new association grew quickly. By 1833, the Ochlocknee had thirty-­five churches with 1,010 members. Though migration to the region was steadily increasing during this time, it did not account for all of the increase. In 1833, 179 were baptized into the association’s churches. Fourteen new churches applied for membership during the same year. So many neophytes comprised the new churches that the association appointed William Knight to instruct them on the proper duties of churches to the association. The rapid expansion expanded the Ochlocknee’s borders to extend from the Piedmont Association to the St. John’s Association. The expansive size of the association prompted a proposal to divide at the 1833 meeting.

In 1834, Friendship, Union, and Elizabeth churches in Georgia, and Providence, New Zion, Concord, Newington, and New River in Florida, were dismissed from the Ochlocknee Association to form a new association.  In a reflection of the intense territorialism of the associations of the period, the new body was given a boundary that extended up the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Little River. The association took the name Suwannee River and scheduled a constitutional meeting at Concord Church for December, 1834.  The delegates duly arrived at the meeting, but the ministers failed to show. At a  rescheduled meeting held in September, 1835, only one appointed minister showed, so the delegates co­opted William A. Knight as the other member of the presbytery and proceeded to formally organize the association.

The Suwannee River Association did not experience rapid growth like the Ochlocknee. The Second Seminole War was the primary cause for the association’s slow growth and sparse representation. The 1838 session recommended that the churches increase their days of fasting and prayer, ‘that the Lord might divert the judgments which seem to hang over us.’ They also suggested they put off any general business of the association, “by reason of the unsettled affairs of our country.”  The 1839 session met in the safer Georgia territory and again suggested more prayer and fasting, “so that the warwhoop of a savage foe, might not be heard any longer in our land to the great disturbance of our fellow citizens, while numbers of our women and infant children are falling victims to their relentless hands.”  Nearby associations “lamented the situation of the Suwannee Association, on account of the Indian War in that vicinity.” 

By the beginning of the 1840s, tensions in the region had eased and the Suwannee was experiencing growth. The 1840 minutes of the Suwannee Association speak of a revival that was strongest among its congregations in Georgia. However, this period of growth and expansion would eventually produce discord and division among the Baptists of South Georgia.

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In 1856 the Union Association was constituted with twelve churches formerly belonging to the Suwannee Associationmost of whose churches were in Florida.  A division was agreed to, making the State line the dividing line between the two Associations The constituting presbytery  was composed of Elders J. E. W. Smith, William A. Knight and J. B. Smith met at Union Church. Her ministers were Elders William A. Knight, Moses Westberry, Ansel Parrish, J. D. Hutto and E. J. Williams, with perhaps two licentiates. Harmony prevailed for a number of years, and the progress of the Association was upward and onward.

Clinch County News
September 20, 1929

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter XIII.

As has been stated before, the minutes of the church from the beginning in 1825 to 1832 have been lost.  We understand, however, that Rev. William A. Knight was the first pastor as well as the guiding hand of the church during these early years.  It is certain that he was one of the charter members and the only ordained minister holding his membership with the church during that time. Assuming that he was pastor during those seven years, the list of pastors up to recently [1929], is as follows:

  • William A. Knight                          1825-1832
  • Matthew Albritton (died)              1832-1850
  • William A. Knight (died)               1850-1860
  • Ansel Parrish                                1860-1865
  •                               (No record, 1865 to 1873)
  • Timothy William Stallings            1873-1888
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                       1888-1900
  • Timothy William Stallings           1900-1902
  • A. A. Knight                                     1902-1907
  • J. A. Chitty                                       1907-1911
  • Aaron A. Knight                                1911-1913
  • Isham Albert Wetherington                        1913-1915
  • Orville A. Knight                          1915-1916
  • E. R. Rhoden                                1916-1918
  • I. A. Wetherington (died)         1918-1923
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                    1923-1925
  • Orville A. Knight                        1925-1927

If the writer could properly write the life of these earnest consecrated servants of the Lord, it would be equal to writing an account of the religious life of this section in the Primitive Baptist denomination.  Fearless in fighting sin and bold in preaching Christ and faithful in contending for the Faith, they have served nobly and well and unborn generations will bear witness to the fruits of their work.  With few exceptions the writer has not sufficient biographical data at hand now to write of their individual lives, but we know of their godly records.  We hope to write later of the lives of these great preachers.

Church Clerks

The clerks of the church likewise contain a list of fine men, known throughout their communities and  counties for their good, upright lives, and their staunch Christian characters. We do not know who the first clerk was.

Elected

  • Owen Smith              September 7, 1832
  • Joshua Sykes              January 12, 1839
  • Isaac D. Hutto                  April 13, 1845
  • William Patten                  May 10, 1851
  • William Lastinger              July 8, 1854
  • John Studstill                       Jan 9, 1858
  • William Giddens                May 7, 1863
  • E. R. Rhoden                 October 8, 1891
  • W. R. Rhoden         November 10, 1894
  • J. L. Robertson        February 12, 1898
  • Wm. J. Knight                  May 12, 1900
  • J. A. Weaver                 August 10, 1901
  • G. L. Robinson      September 12, 1924
  • J. A. Weaver          September 12, 1925
  • J. S. Shaw                     October 8, 1926

A good portion of the minutes is in the handwriting of assistant clerks.  These assistant clerks were generally elected by the church, but of late years there have been no assistants.  The list of assistant clerks is as follows:

  • William A. Knight          1834-1837
  • Levi Drawdy                  1837-1848
  • James Walker                1853-1854
  • Richard H. Burkhalter 1861-1862
  • John P. Tomlinson       1887-1900
  • John T. Watson            1900-1902

Deacons

The church has had but few deacons during its 105 years [as of 1929] of existence.  There were apparently never over two at the time, and when elected they served for life unless sooner dismissed by letter or otherwise.  The list given below is full of as fine men as ever lived in this section.  We do not in the list make any attempt to show how long they served except in those cases where they died members of the church.  We do not know who the first deacons of the church were.  List follows:

Bro. Edmund Mathis, one of the deacons, having removed his membership, Bro. Joshua Lee was elected in his place March 10, 1833, and ordained April 13, 1833 by Elders Peacock, Friar and Knight.

September 6, 1839, Bro. Edmund Mathis was received back into the membership by letter from Concord church, Hamilton County, Fla., and acted as a deacon until dismissed again by letter April 10, 1841.

On June 13, 1841, brethren Jacob Hughes and John Lee were ordained deacons.  Members of the presbytery not shown by minutes.

March 13, 1852, brethren Richard H. Burkhalter and J. D. Peters were elected deacons.  They were ordained June 12, 1852 but the minutes do not show who constituted the presbytery.  Bro. Burkhalter died in 1862 and Bro. Peters also died a member but we do not know when.

The minutes do not show any further ordination of deacons until 1891 when Bro. John P. Tomlinson was elected on May 9th.  On June 13, 1891 he was ordained by Elders J. A. O’steen and T. W. Stallings.

On December 9, 1899, Bro. James L. Robinson was elected a deacon but was never ordained.

On November 10, 1906 Bro. Israel G. Carter was elected a deacon and ordained January 12, 1907 by Elders B.P. Lovett from Salem Church, I. A. Wetherington from Unity church,  A. A. Knight , the pastor.

On October 9, 1909, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected deacon, and ordained February 12, 1910 by Elders Wetherington, Chitty and A. A. Knight .

Treasurers

The minutes do not disclose that the church ever had any treasurer until 1909 whem on October 9th, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected as such.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Some other members of Union Church:

  • George Harris – received August 7, 1841, dismissed by letter March 12, 1842; joined Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844
  • Julia Ann Westberry Harris – received August 7, 1841, dismissed by letter March 12, 1842; joined Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844
  • William Hughes  – joined by letter, December 8, 1838
  • William Wesley Johnson – baptized August 10, 1839
  • Amelia Sherley Johnson – baptized June 13, 1840
  • John Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1839
  • Elender Wetherington Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1838
  • Joshua Lee – constituting member, October 1, 1825
  • Martha Ford Lee – constituting member, October 1, 1825
  • Moses C. Lee – baptized September 11, 1841
  • Jincey Register Lee – baptized September 10, 1854
  • Thomas Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Eady Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Tyre Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Nancy Lee Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Mehala Rice Monk – joined by letter 1838
  • Elizabeth Skinner Register – received by letter into Union Church, September 13, 1828, from Fellowship Baptist Church, Appling County, and dismissed by letter April 10, 1841 from Union to participate in constituting Wayfare Church
  • William Patten – baptized September 9, 1848, dismissed by letter March 11, 1854 to organize Empire Church

 

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Pioneers of Old Lowndes Toasted State Rights and American Independence

Fourth of July 1835 Jubilee and many of the old familiar pioneers of Lowndes and Berrien, members of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  had gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville, GA.  State Senator Levi J. Knight, of Beaverdam Creek at present day Ray City, Berrien County, GA, gave a great oration, as did the Reverend Jonathan Gaulden.  Big Billy Smith was there, as was Hamilton Sharp, Aaron Knight, Jonathan Knight, John Knight and William Cone Knight,  Noah H. Griffin, Martin Shaw, Malachi Monk, Captain David Bell and many others.

After the speechmaking came the celebratory meal, followed by a round of regular toasts to Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette, and to former Georgia Governor, George Michael Troup, as well as some to denounce the excesses of President Andrew Jackson.  The event and toasts were reported in The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, a continuation of the report on Fourth of July, At Franklinville, Lowndes County:

The Southern Recorder
August 4, 1835

The company the proceeded to partake of a sumptuous dinner prepared by William Smith, Esq.; and when the cloth was removed, the following regular and volunteer toasts were received with the usual good humor and applause. All seemed to go off well, and the jubilee of the day was celebrated with a dignity becoming a free people.

REGULAR TOASTS

  1. The principles that gave birth to the anniversary: unsullied may they remain, for they are the breathings of the spirit of liberty.
  2. The Union: such as our fathers gave us, not as their degenerate sons have abused and perverted it.
  3. The patriotism of Washington: how unlike that of our present military chieftain and the hero serving politicians of the day!
  4. The signers of the declaration of American Independence: may their memory and fame be immortal.
  5. George M. Troup: morally honest, politically honest, and politically right – the brightest luminary that adorns our political hemisphere: Georgia’s boast, and a nation’s pride. We admire the man and revere the patriot.
  6. Thomas Jefferson: the illustrious writer of the declaration of American Independence: may his memory never hereafter be painted by the praises of those who cloak the odium of their principles under a pretended love of the Union.
  7. The State of Georgia in 1825: she then stood proudly prominent among her compeers, battling for her rights. Alas! where is she now?
  8. The right of resistance ever belongs to the oppressed; may its votaries never want, nor be wanting.
  9. Our next President: better to have Hugh L. White with but one scare on his political visage, than to have a Baltimore manufactured President, crammed upon us, stinking with his political usurpation.
  10. Nullification: used by patriots to protect the right of sovereign state – by office seekers and office holders, to frighten people from the true principles of democracy.
  11. Religion liberty and science: may they remain forever as the constellations in the heavens, and visit in succession all the kingdoms, and people of the earth.
  12. General Lafayette: the friend and associate of Washington: may his memory ever live in the hearts of a grateful, brave, free and independent people.
  13. Georgia’s fair sex:
    “Till Hymen brought his love delighted hour,
    There dwelt no joy in Eden’s rosy bower;
    The world was sad – the garden was wild,
    And man the Hermit sighed, till woman smiled.”

VOLUNTEER TOASTS

    By John Blackshear. The Honorable Charles Dougherty, the present nominee for the Executive of the State; his independent, manly course when the judicial mandate of the Supreme Court was present to him in the case of the missionaries, give ample evidence of his qualifications for the highest office within the gift of the people of his native State.
    Levi J. Knight. State Rights and State Remedies: our political system and policy in 1799; may it never be changed while North America has one proud son to defend it.
    H. W. Sharpe. The principle that brought about a repeal of the alien and sedition laws of 1798 be my principle, even if that principle be nullification.
Thomas D. Townsend. The preservation of a free government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially, that neither of them be suffered to overleap that great barrier, the constitution, which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commissions from which they derive their authority, and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by authority derived from them, and are slaves.
William C. Knight. The patriotic State of South Carolina, with her patriotic rulers, McDuffie, Hamilton, Calhoun, Hayne and others.
John Knight. May it be the steady aim of all our public functionaries in future, to keep our government in that purity in which it stood in 1799.
Sent in by Mrs. Jane Sharpe. The patriotic ladies of the day; may they remember to emulate their Spartan mothers.
Mrs. Mary N. Smith. May the daughters of happy America never want a Washington to defend them.
Mrs. Sarah Underwood. All Fortune’s children except the oldest, Miss Fortune.
William G. Hall. May the tree of liberty long wave its golden branches over the free and happy people of America.
Noah H. Griffin. Nullification: the true conservative of our rights – without it there is no other barrier against usurpation.
Aaron Knight. May the executive of our nation in future cease to contend for enlarged power; but preside with that moderation and meekness that marked the administration of Washington and Jefferson.
Frederick Varn. Success to ex-Governor Hamilton of South Carolina, the originator of Nullification.
Thomas P. Jordan. (a visitor) A speedy and disgraceful death to modern Unionism and man-worship.
D. G. Hutchison. Samuel Chase, the independent statesman; after enumerating many a glaring instance of ministerial violation of American rights, with a voice of thunder that made the hollow dome resound, he swore a might oath that he owed no allegiance to the King of England. ‘Twas then the Demosthenes of Maryland first taught the startled hails of Congress Hall to re-echo the name of independence. May the youths of America imitate his example.
James Smith.  Our next Governor: may he be emulous even to ape Troup.
John Dees.  The Honorable A. S. Clayton: the fearless asserter of State Rights and true principles.
Owen Smith.  The doctrine of State Rights:  while it protects us from the unhallowed ravages of tyranny, may it remain an unshaken bulwark against the destructive fury of faction.

John M. Cranie jr  The Honorable Charles Dougherty: may he be our next Governor.
James M. Bates.  The sovereignty of the States:  purchased by the blood of the whigs of the Revolution: may the whigs of the day remember it, and remembering feel it.
David Mathis.  Our republican institutions: may they continue to diffuse light and liberty to the happy subjects of America.
Jonathan Knight.  May the State Rights party succeed in restoring the fallen character of Georgia to the elevation in which it stood in 1825.
Martin Shaw, jr.  May American virtue shine when every other light is out:  may freedom of election be preserved, the trial by jury maintained, and the liberty of the press be secured to the latest posterity.
C. S. Gauldin.  The Constitution formed by the wisest hands, increased in its vigor, until federalism gave it a wound in a vital part.  Jefferson applying the balm, republicanism, cured the wound.  Federalism has again entered its vitals; may another Jefferson rise to apply again the restorative State Rights, and restore it to its pristine vigor.
Capt. Bell.  Nullification: used by State Rights men to protect the rights of the States; by office seekers and office holders to frighten fiats into subjects liege and true to the conqueror of Napoleon’s conquerors, but the violator of that constitution he had sworn to defend.
William Smith.  The fair sex: The only endurable aristocracy, who elect without votes, govern without laws, decide without appeal, and are never in the wrong.
James D. Smith.  The three greatest and best Generals – general peace, general plenty and general satisfaction.
Wm. G. Smith.  When wine enlivens the heart, may friendship surround the table.
Joel Gornto.  His Excellency Wilson Lumpkin: Georgia’s constant friend, the pure and immaculate statesman; his public acts, though, much abused by political demagogues, will ever be supported bu the yeomanry of Georgia.
M. Monk.  State Rights without nullification, Union without consolidation.

1835 Independence Day toasts at Franklinville, GA. The Southern Recorder, August 4, 1835.

1835 Independence Day toasts at Franklinville, GA. The Southern Recorder, August 4, 1835.

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More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River

Montgomery M. Folsom

Montgomery M. Folsom, from his 1889 book, Scraps of Song and Southern Scenes.

Found this 1889 account of the history of  Troupville, GA by erstwhile Wiregrass historian, poet, and humorous writer Montgomery M. Folsom.  Folsom starts his tale at the headwaters of the Okolocoochee and Withlacoochee rivers. He traces them down to their connection with the Withlacoochee, at which point Troupville was founded. As the government seat, Troupville was the center of legal and civic activity for Lowndes County (see An Antebellum Trial at Troupville). Troupville was also an important center of commerce and social life for the pioneer settlers of Lowndes County, like Levi J. Knight, who established the first community near the site of present day Ray City, GA.  The Knights settled on another branch of the Withlacoochee;  Beaverdam creek, at Ray City, flows into Cat Creek on down to the Withlacoochee.

Atlanta Constitution, January 29, 1889, Pg 12.

THE WITHLACOOCHEE RIVER.
VALDOSTA, Ga., January 19. -[Special.]- Away up near the northern limit of the great wiregrass section there is a big cypress swamp. They call them bays there. From this bay emerges a little stream of claret colored water. This is near Peckville, and close to the corner of Worth, Irwin, and Dooly counties. This is the head of the Ockolocoochee, Little river.
    Farther eastward, some ten or fifteen miles, there is another bay from which emerges a restless current that goes rushing away toward the south, fretting among the pine boles, resting among the silent solitudes of the mysterious swamps, the Alapaha.
    About midway between these streams, some twenty miles below their heads, the Withlacoochee steals stealthily out of the depths of a brambly brake and glides noiselessly away, like some black serpent of the swamps winding in and out among the barrens.
    The Ockolocoochee curves and twines among the pine-clad ridges, receiving the tribute of some lesser stream at every turn. Ty Ty, Warrior, Big Indian on the West, No-Man’s-Friend, Frank’s creek from the east, till it reaches Troupville. It is, properly, the river, despite the fact that its name is lost after its confluence with the Withlacoochee. It is like the wedding of a great big strapping wiregrass girl with a short, stout, presumptive little man.
    The Ockolochoochee is the stream for fishing. Along the snowy margin of its glistening sand-bars the red-belly, the perfection of perch; and in its placid eddies, beneath the shadow of the tupeloes, the red-horse sucker, chief of all the carp tribe; abound in strength and numbers sufficient to gratify the most inveterate of anglers.
    New river gives the Withlacoochee a good start, and it swerves away to receive the tribute of half a dozen streams on its tortuous course. From its fountain head it is dark and forbidding, and the secrets of its black waters are preserved most faithfully.
    Away back in the olden days when Lowndes county was as big as Poland, an act was passed by the Georgia legislature, appointing a commission to select an appropriate place for a county site. Franklinville had been its capital, but was not near enough to the center. As the legend goes, Big Billy Knight and Big Billy Folsom were appointed.
    These two worthies, one from the pimple hills of the Ockolocoochee, and the other from the saw palmetto flats of the Withlacoochee; decided that the most appropriate point was right in the fork of the two rivers. They had an idea that the river would be navigable that high up, even above the point where the Alapaha disappears and runs underground a mile before uniting with the Withlacoochee.
    So it came about that where the wine-red waters or the Ockolocoochee and the black current of the Withlacoochee meet at the end of a long sandbar and go tumbling and writhing, eddying and curving down the long reach of moss-grown trees, like two huge serpents struggling for the mastery, the plat of a town was drawn, and it was called after Georgia’s great chevelier governor, “Troupville,” with a strong accent on the “ville.” They had not learned to say “Troupvul” then, and it was such a high sounding title that they lingered lovingly on the pronunciation.
    The town grew apace. It enjoyed what the modern’s call a boom. Land lots sold rapidly, and settlers came rushing in, mainly the Smiths. Lowndes county has ever been prolific in the smith line. Owen Smith, Old Billy Smith, Young Billy Smith, all sorts of Smiths, even down to our Hamp, who so ably represents that historic name in the present pushing metropolis Valdosta.
One of the Smith’s built a tavern, and another Smith set up in business, and young Dr. Briggs, who came from the north, broken in business, but full of energy and ability, and laid the foundation of that prosperity that has long distinguished the Briggs and the Converse families.
    Troupville only suffered one inconvenience. To get to town three-fourths of the population had either to cross the river of the east or the river of the west and half the time, during the winter and spring, these rivers were raging with freshets, the bridges were afloat and were frequently swept away.
   One thing more hindered her prosperity. At the only season when the main river was navigable, the Old Nick, himself, couldn’t navigate it. So it transpired that the only freighted barge that ever tempted its tempestuous tide was a flat boat that went down the river to the Suwanee, thence down that river to Cedar Keys.
    It never returned.
    The boatmen sold the vessel and cargo and walked home.
    Life was too short to navigate that crooked stream, with its sunken logs and treacherous sands, and the hope of water transportation was abandoned.
    Among those who settled in Troupville and left behind many momentous memories, was Morgan Goodgame Swain, a burly blacksmith from Emanuel, who was ever ready for a fight, frolic or a footrace. He stood six feet three and weighed over two hundred without  pound of surplus flesh. As handsome as a Greek god he was gifted with herculean strength and a heart that was generous and true. He erected his forge on the bank of the Ockolockochee, and his wife took possession of the tavern. Becky, she was lord above, and Morz was lord below.
    The town of Valdosta was laid off when the old Atlantic and Gulf Railroad was built, about the opening of the war. Brooks and Echols had been cut off from Lowndes, and the county site was moved four miles southeast of Troupville to Valdosta. A great many of the buildings were moved bodily. And now there is not one brick upon another to tell the story of Troupville. A pile of white rocks marks the spot of Swain’s old forge, and some weather beaten mulberry trees still bud and blossom around the old square where stood the tavern. Aside from these there is nothing left to keep alive the cherished hopes that once animated the soul of Troupville.
   The Withlacoochee still glides along to meet the Ockolocoochee, and the land that lies between them, once town property, is now a barren waste, overgrown with somber pines, solitary tufts of bear grass whose white crests wave to and fro in ghostly suggestiveness in the twilight of summer evenings when the whip-poor-wills chant their weird melodies among the lonely thickets.
    Around the once populous portion of the town lies a waste of sedgy fields that are barren and unproductive. The half-wild goats browse among the fennels and briars. “Ichabod” is written in lichen crusted letters, and desolation reigns supreme.
                 MONTGOMERY M. FOLSOM.

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