The Old Log Church

Montgomery Morgan Folsom was a grandson of Randal Folsom and great grandson of Lawrence Armstrong Folsom, one of the pioneer settlers of Old Lowndes County, GA. On his mother’s side he was a grandson of Sarah Wooten and Morgan G. Swain, early residents of Troupville, GA.

Folsom was, according to his obituary, among the best known and most versatile newspaper men in the South. He wrote prolifically and his stories and poetry were widely published. He wrote about his childhood memories and tales heard from his elders about pioneer days along  Withlacoochee RiverTroupvilleCoffee Road, the formation of Lowndes County,  the Battle of Brushy Creek, fire hunts, and early Wiregrass Methodists.  His grandfather, Randall Folsom, was a leading member of the Methodist church.

In his book, Scraps of Songs and Southern Scenes,  Montgomery M. Folsom recalls his grandfather as larger than life. His details, if not an actual historical portrait, paint the church life of early Methodist pioneers. The piece, “Malachi,” describes a Methodist church which is not identified.  If it is Salem Church, it must be the original structure and not the church built in 1856 on the Coffee Road.  The church in Malachi matches the description of old Salem Church Folsom gave in 1885 “Long time ago there was another Salem, built of logs, clap-boards and puncheons.”  For Montgomery to have ever attended a service in the old log church means it must have stood for some years after 1857, the year of his birth, and saw at least occasional use, perhaps on special observances such as the love feast.

 

MALACHI

Ah, the old log church!

With its long roof of clapboards, and the swag in the middle where the back bone had weakened, and the broad, shutterless door, and the puncheon steps in front.

Then the side door where the women went in, and the window at the back of the pulpit. And the rows of benches running crosswise, and down next to the pulpit, either side, rows of benches that ran lengthwise.

These were for the old folks – mothers and fathers in Israel – and the old women sat on one side and the old men on the other.

The Amen corner. Grandpa had his seat up there, and he wore the old bench slick sitting there listening to the sound of the gospel and raising the hymns.

The old man – sacred be his memory – owned much cattle. He pastured his flocks and herds from the Ocmulgee to the Flint, and from Stono, where the devil dropped his shot gourd; and old Pindertown, on the north, to the black swamps of the Okeefenokee, and the pimple hills of Ocopilco on the South.

He hunted his cattle over an area as big as the German Empire.

He carried a whip that you could hear a mile, and when he hollered “cow holler,” the echoes reverberated from the pine clad ridge and the banks of reedy river, till you would have thought it was a regiment of whangdoodles sounding the charge.

Grandpa was very religious. He used to get formidably happy, and when he shouted he shook the walls of the old log house like Joshua and his ram-shorns on the plains of Jericho.

And he could talk at love-feast till the tears would trickle down the cheeks of the brethren like the summer rain on the furrowed brow of Signal Mountain.

When he prayed I always thought the good Lord paid some attention to him, for the old man meant every word he said, and he spoke out loud, and if he wanted rain he just asked for it.

Some of the rest of them I was a little doubtful about; but I knew the good Lord was obliged to hear Grandpa.

I can see him now, raise himself, clear up his throat, and as the preacher finished “lining out” the hymn, the old man’s broad chest would expand, a new light would come into that keen grey eye that was as sharp as an eagle’s ; and —

” All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let Angels prostrate fall.”

Another pause while the next two lines were read and like the rich throb of some great organ —

” Bring forth the royal diadem

And crown Him Lo-o-rd of All —
Bring forth the roy-al di-a-dem

And crow-n H-im Lo-o-rd of All ! “

Weaker voices swelled the grand old anthem of triumph, but Grandpa’s voice led all the rest.

It was like the deep rich roll of summer thunder, accompanied by the rythmic patter of the falling rain.

I just knew then, and I have no doubt to this day, that angels gazed over the walls of paradise and chanted a joyous refrain.

I was a little Catholic. Too young to know much about it, and I looked upon Grandpa as my father in God.

And my confidence was not misplaced.

This very night, somewhere beyond the twinkling stars of heaven, the old man is wandering among perennial pastures and by streams that never go dry. And his great big heart is throbbing with calm contentment, and his great big voice is leading some choir of angel voices in that same old song —

“And crown Him Lord of all ! “

One time, howbeit, the old man got me into a predicament.

It was one Sunday, when they had love-feast. Those wiregrass Methodists had real feasts of love in those days, when they laid aside the bickerings and cares and the fretfulness of earth, and gathered themselves to worship the God of love.

And the sun shone on leafy trees, and the winds were sweet and low as they sang softly among the pines. Wild birds flitted from wind-swayed bough to blooming thicket, and at the foot of the hill the streamlet crooned among the pebbles.

Far away in the golden deeps of the summer heavens cloud-ships lay at anchor, soon to hoist sail for the land of dreams.

One by one the elder members arose and told their experiences, and, good souls, magnified the few small sins their simple lives had known into black and bitter wrongs against their God.

Grandpa sat with his hands on the back of the bench in front of him, and listened with deepest interest to all that was said, now smiling gladly with one whose face beamed with the gladness of hope; now brushing off a tear in sympathy with some one whose anguish of spirit wrung scalding tears from a burning heart.

I grew drowsy.” I had committed but few sins. Stole a few watermelons, perhaps ; or caused Ponchartrain to kill the tabby cat’s kitten ; or broke up a bluebird’s nest ; or told a story about going in swimming. But they were sins too small for God or Grandpa either to mind much.

I sat on a crosswise bench where I could watch Grandpa and keep my eye on the preacher, all at the same time. Besides, I wanted to swap knives with Charlie Remington as soon as they all got through, and the love-feast was of only secondary interest to me.

Grandpa’s time came.

I was watching a jaybird in an oak tree outside, and my eyes were trying to make me believe there were two jaybirds, when I knew there was but one.

The old man arose, and resting his hands on the back of the bench, he gazed away off in the distance for a moment, and then cleared his throat.

“A-hem!”

He took the big red handkerchief from his hat by his side, wiped his ruddy face, and another —

“A-hem!”

Then he began deliberately —

“Well, bretherin, I feel that we aire all sinful creatures in the sight of God. The Scripter saith : ‘He that saith he liveth and sinneth not is a liar, and the truth aint in ‘im ! ‘

“But I don’t b’lieve in puttin’ too much distress on our sins and shortcomin’s. We’re bad enough without that.

“Let us be of good cheer, and not be cast down. Our Saviour tells us that He will send a Comforter, and ‘if I go not, the Comforter will not come.’ I am mighty well satisfied to take His word in all these matters.

“He has gone to prepare us a home, but He has not left us hopeless. That is the beauty of religion.

“And I want to tell you a source of great comfort to me.

You know for sev’ral weeks I’ve been a-ridin’ in the woods and I ain’t had much time to attend to my duties like I ort to, but I’ve kept my Bible with me, and I’ve been a readin’ at odd chances.

“And I want to tell you a little book that I’ve came acrost in the Bible that has done me more good than a little. And I want you all to read it keerfully. It’s a little book away over in the back of the Old Testyment, and you mought miss it unless you looked close.

“Mind what I tell you, now, and ‘tend to this right away. Fust thing when you go home, do you hunt it up and read it keerfully.

“Away out yander in them lonesome woods” — and one rough, brown hand was raised in the direction of the forest — “that little book has be’n a comforter to me.

“It is the little book of Malachi!”

Bang !

The fist came down on the back of the seat; I started from my doze, the jaybird flitted away, several old men groaned, and several old women said “Bless the Lord!”

The old man sat down.

“Malachi, Malachi, Malachi.”

The name seemed imbedded in my memory like a bullet in a tree.

“Malachi.”

All the day it haunted me, and at night I awoke from a dream and muttered, “Malachi!”

Next day I kept thinking over it, and it bothered me.

“Malachi.”

I would look it up. Grandpa said it was good to read and Grandpa knew. So I would make a still hunt for Malachi.

I found it, just as he said, and I read it over and over — skipped the hard names and spelled out the long words.

But to save my life I never was able to discover anything of special interest in Malachi. I found it very short, and I decided that was why he found it so comfortable. He could read it while his horse was eating, and be done with it.

And although I reverence the very wild vines that clamber over his crumbling tomb, and cherish every memory of the good man that is gone, I am still puzzled about Malachi.

Perhaps

If I should live to be
The last leaf on the tree

In the spring, I might find that comforter which the old man found in reading Malachi.

 

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In Salem Church

Salem Methodist Church

Salem Church, Lowndes County, GA circa 1866

Salem Church, Lowndes County, GA circa 1866

Salem Church is among the earliest Methodist churches in this section. The church would have been on the Troupville Circuit ridden by Reverend Peurifoy, a Methodist circuit rider of Wiregrass Georgia. Other Methodist churches on the circuit included Troupville, established about 1832, Oak Grove Church, Concord Church, and Bethlehem Church. Pre-dating any of these churches was the annual Methodist revival held at the old Lowndes Camp Ground, later called the Mount Zion Camp Ground. The earliest Methodist church in Ray City was organized in 1910.

About Salem Church

“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. The existing Salem UMC was built on its new location 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. Many of the citizens of the community attended school in a one-room school across the street from the church and, when needed, the church was also used for classroom space.”  – South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church

Salem Church was attended by slave owners and slaves, as well. The church kept two graveyards, a white cemetery and an  African-American cemetery. There is still a distinct line between the two cemeteries, one with unmarked graves, the other with neat white headstones and plush grass.  Laying in the marked graves are many of the Folsom family connection, among them Dr. James Rountree Folsom, father of Montgomery M. Folsom.

M.M. Folsom was one of the best known and most versatile newspaper men in the South, according to his obituary. He was a great and prolific writer of prose and poetry, which was widely read and copied.  In the September 14, 1885 Atlanta Constitution, Montgomery M. Folsom recalls Salem Church of his youth.

 

In Salem Church

The Memory of a Middle Age Man Stirred Up.

M.M. Folsom in Valdosta, Ga, Times.

        Let me see, the old church must be getting old indeed, now; I am shiffling along toward the dim and mysterious regions of the third decade of life, and, I am beginning to feel right patriarchal. Yes, I was walking along the street a few day since when a diminutive specimen of the genus homo accosted me with “hello, old chum,” and I came very near rebuking him on the spot, but on second thought I remember how fine a sense of ridicule the modern ragmuffin is blessed with, so I contented myself with a withering glance, and then winked to keep him from thinking hard of me. Good gracious! How egotistical I am growing. But never mind, I’m going to be a country editor, some day, and then I can use that delusive pronoun “we” and then we’ll make ourself just as great an ass as we choose, and no one will molest us or make our cheek to blush.
       Well, that church is a few months older than I, but I trust it hasn’t half as much to answer for. When last I threw a ball at its stately front I tried to hit the figure “6” in the date, “1856” painted above the tall columns which support its venerable front.
       Long time ago there was another Salem, built of logs, clap-boards and puncheons. “H.W.S.” could tell you all about it. The good Methodists decided to build a new one, and the present site, fronting the old Coffee road, was selected. I think William McGuire was the master carpenter in the job, but I don’t know, it has been so long. Oh! what a flood of sweet old memories come trouping along as, in fancy, I sit once more within those sacred walls. A goodly space, in the rear of the pulpit was partitioned off for the negroes who were then slaves, of course.
      Certain seats were recognized as the special property of certain old people, not that we had any pew renting, and the like of that, but they came so regularly, and occupied the same seat so often, that younger folks soon learned to look for Uncle Randal on a long bench near the partition, with the south window at his back. Dear old man! How I loved to watch his portly figure as he waddled up the isle, and the few scant locks glistening like a glowing silver light above his ruddy brow. Uncle Billy Sineath was bent with age and hard labor. He would plow hard all the week, and till near meeting time Saturday, then he donned his meeting clothes, and started for the church just like the true Christian that he was. His face was rugged, and the dark eyes glowed beneath a pair of cavernous brows, but never a kinder heart beat in the bosom of any man. Uncle Hamp was always there, too, with a kind word and a hearty handshake for every one. What made him more conspicuous was the tall beaver, that he took off at the door. Now there is a great deal of individuality about a hat. Grandpa and Uncle Billy Sineath wore broad brims, and the brim had to turn up in certain places, while in others it must lay flat, or curve around in a peculiar manner. I used to wonder how much time they spent training a new hate ere it acquired the regulation flop. Our old teacher was straight as an arrow and nearly as slim, his hair was always gray, I suppose, but when he patted one of us little urchins on the head as he stepped into the porch, we were of the elect the balance of that day. But why try to describe such individual? It would require volumes simple to record their goodness and the act of Christian charity which they did in their days.
        I remember one sermon that touched me, boy as I was, deeply and it stirred the depths of the hearts of every individual in the vast congregation that were packed in the church. Leonard C. Peake had lately been blind, but his sight was now restored. A man of venerable aspect and commanding presence, he stood in the pulpit that day and preached as I never heard man preach before. His text was “And Moses said unto——-” but I can’t remember, it was so long ago but it read on- “we are journeying unto the land which the Lord God hath given us. Come thou and go with us, and we will do thee good.” In the course of his sermon he told how, after a season of darkness, he had been allowed to look again on the blessed light of Heaven. Oh, that was a time long to be remembered.
      Then there was Jesse J. Giles, the happiest looking man I ever saw. His soul knew no wintry season. His face eternally beamed with the smiles of a perpetual spring season. To look at him was to love him, and to love him was but a step removed from the worship of that God whom he worshiped with the most sublime adoration. His voice was a s a woman’s and the musical tones were like the strains of music from some faraway land. The old well-worn copy of “John Wesley” that he gave me so many years ago lies before me as I write. Unhidden tears bedim my eyes as I think of the last words he ever said to me.
       But the grandest old warrior was big, burly, tender-hearted John Hendry. His voice was of that deep, rich kind which men of slender chests are wont to covet. The tawny beard covered his face and hung down on his breast. When he ascended the pulpit steps the evil doer trembled, and the first syllable of that deep voice sent a thrill through me like an electric shock. And oh! you ought to have heard him sing,
“I’m glad salvations’ free!”
      The great voice filled the whole building, and the thunder tones went reverbating and re echoing among the dark pine woods. Wafted by the soft evening breeze the echoes grew fainter and fainter until the word “Salvation” died away on the hilltops faraway, away, where the autumn moon shed such a wondrous shower of golden light.
       But we had one funny parson, I’ve forgotten his name. He said that when he left his last circuit he left “six crowing roosters sitting on the front yard fence.” He never stayed long.
       Another was a vissionary and a dreamer. In fact, he was so fond of relating his wonderful dreams, that there grew a proverb out of it, and we sacrilegious boys were in the habit of illustrating our opinion of a doubtful yarn by saying, “Ah! you thought like—–dreamt when you studied that up.”
      There was one man who could never pray without weeping. His voice would grow husky and broken and his petition always ended in a heart-broken sob. If that many wasn’t a Christian I never knew one.
Good men they were. I have not mentioned a tithe of them. The subject is too big for me. I cannot write of things that touch such tender chords, and wake such sacred memories. All that was best in my wasted life is interwoven with the story of old Salem. How often in my wanderings have I cast my longing eyes thitherward, and sighed to think of the days that are past forever more.

“Blest scenes of enjoyment long have we been parted,

My hopes almost gone, and my parents no more;
And now as an exile, forelorn, broken-hearted,
I wonder alone on a far distant shore.”

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Montgomery Morgan Folsom

Montgomery Morgan Folsom (1857-1899)
Montgomery M. Folsom was the eldest son of Dr. James Roundtree Folsom and Rachel Inman Swain. He was a grandson of Randal Folsom and great grandson of Lawrence Armstrong Folsom, one of the pioneer settlers of Lowndes County, GA. On his mother’s side he was a grandson of Sarah Wooten and Morgan G. Swain, early residents of Troupville, GA.

Montgomery M. Folsom was a poet and a writer of the Wiregrass section of Georgia who contributed to both Georgia and New York newspapers. He was a prolific writer of prose and poetry, which was widely published and read.  He was a protege’ of Henry Grady, outspoken white supremacist and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution.  Folsom’s works captured the spirit of his early life in old Berrien County and the oral history of Wiregrass pioneers and slaves.

Among other topics, Folsom wrote about the Withlacoochee River, Troupville, Coffee Road, the formation of Lowndes County,  the Battle of Brushy Creek, fire hunts, and early Wiregrass Methodists.

His literary writing seems clearly influenced by the work of Joel Chandler Harris; his creative period coincides almost exactly with Harris’ tenure as assistant editor and lead editorial writer at the Atlanta Constitution. In some of Folsom’s stories, his use of dialect and appropriation of African-American culture could be subject to the same criticism as Harris’ Uncle Remus stories.

Montgomery M. Folsom

Montgomery M. Folsom

 

Born in Berrien County, GA on January 31, 1857, he was baptized by Reverend Payton P. Smith at Salem Church near Hahira, GA; He was married in New Pleasant Hill Church, Colquitt County, GA, November 13, 1879 to Frances Edna Croft, daughter of Mary Ann Hiers and William Nathaniel Croft, born in Colquitt County, GA, July 15, 1860.

Children:

  1. Mamie Leona Folsom – Born near Hempstead, Colquit County, GA, August 25, 1881; married in Atlanta, GA, September 15, 1898, to Dr. Frank Alexander Wynne of Rome, GA; widowed [date unknown]; moved to Dallas, TX; wrote stories and articles for newspapers and magazines; taught voice and piano; prominent in club work; traveled to Europe.
  2. Ewell Vernon Folsom – born February 10, 1883 near Tifton, GA; married in Orange, TX, April 7, 190e to Emma Myer Curtis, of Orange, TX; engaged in lumber trade in Orange, TX; prominent in social circles, a writer of short stories, a singer with a fine bass voice; died in Beaumont, TX February 18, 1933.
  3. Noel Byron Folsom – Born December 2, 1885 near New River Church, Berrien County, GA; served in the Army after the Spanish American War as an Assistant Veterinary Surgeon; married in New York, NY in June, 1912 to Mabel Bell Walsh, a resident of Yonkers, NY; craftsman, engaged in ship-building during WWI; writer of prose and poetry.
  4. Julia Grady Folsom – born May 15, 1889 on Fort Hawkins Hill, East Macon, Bibb, County, GA; named for Mrs. Julia King Grady, wife of Henry Grady; married first at age 14 in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta to Richard Trevanion Patton, son of Mrs. Julia Iverson Patton; divorced September 13, 1909, both being too young to carry on; married second on December 31, 1925 to John Daniel Hargraves, son of Frances L. Daniel and Dr. Benjamin Worthington Hargraves, who was First Lieutenant, Company K, 55th Infantry in WWI; writer of many fine poems, published in the Atlanta Constitution and other publications.
  5. Jessie Juanita Folsom, born February 9, 1894 in Atlanta, GA; graduated Law School, admitted to the bar but never practiced; feature writer for the Atlanta Journal; married July 22, 1917 in St. Philips Cathedral, Atlanta to Lieutenant Basil Stockbridge, Atlanta lawyer.

He died very suddenly of apoplexy in Atlanta, GA July 1, 1899. Upon his death, the Atlanta Constitution proclaimed Montgomery M. Folsom one of the best known and most versatile newspaper men in the South.  He was buried July 4, 1899 at Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA.

Montgomery M. Folsom Dead; Had Only A Few Hours’ Illness

Seized with a Sinking Spell Saturday Afternoon, He Rapidly Grew Worse Until the End Came Yesterday Morning,

Apoplexy Was The Cause

He was on the Streets Saturday In His Usual Health.

Was A Capable Journalist And Poet

He Was Well Known in the South and His Writings Were Widely Read and Copied – A Sketch of His Life.

      Montgomery M. Folsom, one of the best known and most versatile newspaper men in the south, died suddenly at his residence, 445 East Fair street, at 7 o’clock yesterday morning, after an illness of only a few hours.
      Saturday morning Mr. Folsom was apparently in his usual good health, and left his home in unusually good spirits. He returned home about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and complained of feeling bad. At 3 o’clock he had a violent sinking spell and was soon unconscious. His family became alarmed at his condition, and Dr. Johnson, who lives in the vicinity of the Folsom residence, was summoned. His efforts were unavailing, and the stricken man failed to regain consciousness.
       Later in the afternoon no change in his condition taking place, his son-in-law, Dr. F. A. Wynne, was called in. He remained by the side of Mr. Folsom all night long, but saw that his condition was hopeless.
At 6 o’clock in the morning he partially regained consciousness, but could not speak. At 7 o’clock death came suddenly and without pain.
      The immediate cause of death was apoplexy, superinduced by an affection of the heart, from which he had been a suffering for the past two years.
      Montgomery Folsom is survived by a wife and five children; Mrs. F. A. Wynne, Ewell V. Folsom, aged seventeen; Noel F. Folsom, aged sixteen; Julia G. Folsom, aged thirteen, and Jessie Juanita Folsom, aged eight. He also leaves one brother and one sister- Carroll R. Folsom and Mrs. Minnie Weeks.

The Funeral Arrangements
      The deceased was a member of the Cherokee lodge, Masonic Order, of Rome. The funeral will be conducted Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock with masonic honors.
      Up to a late hour last night it had not been decided whether the services would be conducted from the residence of a church. The list of pallbearers will also be announced later.

Sketch of his life.
      Montgomery Morgan Folsom was one of the most brilliant and prolific writers in the south, and his literary productions were widely read and copied. He wrote prose and poetry with equal facility, and his acquaintance with men and affairs was extensive. He was an indefatigable worker and one of the most productive newspaper men in Atlanta.
      By nature he was extremely companionable, and made many friends who were warmly attached to him. His death was the cause of universal sorrow among a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.
Montgomery Folsom was born near Hahira, Lowndes county, Georgia, January 31, 1857, and was therefore forty-two years old at the time of his death. He was the son of James Rountree Folsom and Rachel Inman Folsom.
       His grandfather, Randel Folsom, was at one time a wealthy planter, possessed of literary tastes, who, when financial reverses overtook him, retired to the seclusion of his library and spent his declining years absorbed in study. It was from Randel Folsom that young Montgomery attained the rudiments of an education, which afterwards ripened into a rare culture.
      Montgomery Folsom was essentially a self-made man, and his fight for an education was a bitter, uphill one, fraught with obstacles in the shape of poverty and scant resources that would have daunted a nature with less steadfast purpose.
      However, he had a marvelous faculty for acquiring and assimulating knowledge, and once he read a book its substance remained with him. His grasp at the salient facts of a history or a scientific treatise was remarkable from the time he was a mere boy.
      Up to the time he was eighteen or nineteen years of age his days were spent in toll on a farm, and his nights in study. Arrived at the age of twenty, he became a pedagogue and taught small country schools in various parts of south Georgia. It was at Thomasville, Ga., while engaged in the avocation of school teacher, that he did his first newspaper work. His first published writings appeared in the Savannah Morning News, when he was a mere boy. They consisted of poems and articles of a literary and humorous vein.
      Later he began to contribute to the northern papers, and the New York Post and The Sun accepted many of his prose writing and verse. Up to the day of his death the later paper gladly accepted everything he wrote.
      The success of his writings decided him to adopt newspaper work as a profession, and his first editorial position was on The Thomasville Times. While at the head of this paper he wrote “Jeff Hancock’s Bull,” a set of humorous verses which attracted widespread attention —– for him a more than local reputation
      From Thomasville he went to Americus where he edited the Times-Recorder. Later he was given a position on the Macon Telegraph, and it was while in that city that his work attracted the attention of the late Henry Grady, who made him the Macon correspondent of The Constitution and encouraged him to write special articles for this paper.

Would Not Accept Pay.
      During the early days when Montgomery Folsom was connected with newspapers in the south he continued to do work for the northern press. This work he refused to accept pay for, and time and time again he returned checks to the senders with the request that they pay him in books. In this way he managed to accumulate a handsome library, which was composed chiefly of the poets. He was particularly fond of Byron, Shelley, Burns and Caldridge and knew many of their works by heart. He was also an ardent admirer of Victor Hugo, and was a deep student of the French revolution. Napoleon was his hero, and probably no man in Atlanta had read more miscellaneous literature bearing on the life and personal characteristics of Bonaparte.
       From Macon he went to Cedartown, where he purchased an interest in The Cedartown Standard, and was placed in editorial charge. In 1887 fire visited The Standard office and the plant, together with Mr. Folsom’s fine collection of books, was burned.
      Soon after this disaster he came to Atlanta and secured a position on the local staff of The Constitution. His  special work at this time, under the pseudonym of “The Night Hawk,” attracted considerable attention throughout the state.
      A connection with Society, a literary paper published by Mrs. Lollie Belle Wylie, followed. From Society he went to The Journal and from The Journal to Rome, where he edited The Tribune for a number of months.
      When The Evening Constitution was started he returned to Atlanta and was placed on the local staff of that paper. After the suspension of The Evening Constitution he returned to The Journal once more, leaving that paper to accept a position on The Chattanooga Times during the Spanish-American war, when troops were encamped at Chickamauga.
       In 1894 Mr. Folsom began to correspond regularly for a number of northern papers, and this work he continued to do up to the time of his death.
       He was a brilliant writer and a kindly gentleman, whose warm heart and generous impulses made for him many friends.

Grave of Montgomery Morgan Folsom, Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA

Grave of Montgomery Morgan Folsom, Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA

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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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Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers

EARLY POSTAL SERVICE

In was not until after the Civil War that mail service  at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available.  But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back more than 185 years.

Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient.  When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier.   A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier.   Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.

But, in 1825  no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill  nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.

McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on  March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.  Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road”  in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.  Officially,    McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”

The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3

The McCranie Family

Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information.  It was at his home there that the first post office in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826.  The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’  which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster.  The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.

1830 Georgia map detail - original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

1830 Georgia map detail – original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

SHARPE’S STORE POST OFFICE
The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828 announced that Hamilton W. Sharpe had opened a post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe's Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 17, 1828

A Post Office has been recently established at Sharpe’s Store, in Lowndes county, Geo. on the route from Telfair Courthouse to Tallahassee – Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq. P.M.

Hamilton W. Sharpe served as Postmaster at Sharpe’s Store until 1836.  At that time the name of the post office was briefly changed to Magnum Post Office, with John Hall appointed as Postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, having been selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near  the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of  Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)

…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’  On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

Postmaster Smith’s annual salary in 1831 was $16.67.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

    There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house.  It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location.  The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River.  It was named ‘Lowndesville.”  The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”

Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there.  Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.

By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)

 CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:

***

In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.

***

Approved July 2, 1836

This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.

Detail of J.H. Young's 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of J.H. Young’s 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of Burr's 1839 map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

Detail of Burr’s 1839 postal map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat  yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel E. Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA and reporting Indian activity in the area. Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a militia leader in the 1836-1842 Indian Wars in Lowndes County, GA.

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA had franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA hand franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville inconvenienced many residents of north Lowndes county, possibly prompting the resumption of postal service at Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road.  The name of Magnum Post Office reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton W. Sharpe was again Postmaster.

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe's Store. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, Lowndes County, GA. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837.

Unfortunately,  Sharpe’s Store was even farther distant from Beaverdam Creek;  the Knights, Clements, and their neighbors were left with a forty mile round trip to Troupville fetch the mail.  Sharpe himself served as Postmaster 1837 to 1848.  James Perry took over as Postmaster at Sharpe’s store from 14 December, 1848 to 16 August, 1849, when Sharpe returned to the position. John G. Polhill took the position 5 July, 1850, and Norman Campbell took over 21 August, 1850 to 21 July 1853 when the post office was moved to Morven, GA.

By 1838, Postmaster William Smith at Troupville was receiving weekly mail via routes from Waresboro and Bainbridge, and from San Pedro, Madison County, FL. In 1847 weekly mail was coming and going from Irwinville and Bainbridge, GA, and from Madison, FL.  William Smith continued as the Troupville Postmaster until  October 30, 1848 when attorney Henry J. Stewart took over.  On  August 16, 1849 William Smith resumed as Postmaster at Troupville.

Weekly service extended in 1851 to Waresboro, Albany and Irwinville, and to Columbus, FL.

Travel in the South in the 1830s

Travel in the South in the 1830s

 ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.  Weekly mail service berween Waresboro or Waynesville and Troupville came by Allapaha.

Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)

Benjamin Sermons Postmaster 06/27/1838
Isaac D. Hutto Postmaster 05/03/1841
James S. Harris Postmaster 03/05/1842
Samuel H. Harris Postmaster 09/12/1846
Peter Munford Postmaster 01/28/1848
James S. Harris Postmaster 02/09/1849
Andrew J. Liles Postmaster 11/27/1849

While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.

FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early  Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves.  “At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…”   The J. H. Colton Map of Georgia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River now known as Ten Mile Creek. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).

HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.

STAR ROUTES
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.”   Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible  by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach.  On March 3, 1845 Congress  established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation.  These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.”  In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.

NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.”  In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.

CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.”  The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.

RAY CITY POST OFFICE

After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA.  The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.

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