James Rountree (1787-1834), Pioneer Settler of Old Lowndes

James Rountree (1787-1834)

James Rountree, it is said, was the first pioneer settler to build a house in Old Lowndes County, GA.

James Rountree was a son of William F. and Rachel Rountree, born about 1787 in Burke County, GA. His parents were planters of North Carolina, but had come to Burke County some time before James was born.

The research of Robert Jeffries found that James Rountree moved from Burke County about 1808.  He settled in the newly created Telfair County.  Telfair and Laurens counties were created from Wilkinson County by an act of the General Assembly approved December 10, 1807 (Ga. Laws 1807, p. 37).

This map shows Laurens County (upper) and Telfair County (lower) outlined in red to show the original boundaries specified in the Dec. 10, 1807 act creating both counties. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/histcountymaps/telfair1807map.htm

This map shows Laurens County (upper) and Telfair County (lower) outlined in red to show the original boundaries specified in the Dec. 10, 1807 act creating both counties. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/histcountymaps/telfair1807map.htm

“County Records show that James Rountree, of Burke County, on June 27, 1808, bought Land Lot #319 in the 14th District … from John Hand of Columbia County for $100 as shown in Deed Book A on page 93, and on the same date he bought Land Lot #318 in the same district and county from Elijah Roberson for $500 as shown in Deed Book A on page 94.

Later that year, on December 13, 1808 this section was cut into Pulaski County by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws 1808, p. 52). (Today, the 14th Land District of old Wilkinson County is now wholly in Dodge County, GA.)

“The Pulaski County tax-digest for 1811, shows James Rountree lived on Land Lot #150 of the 14th District of Pulaski, now Dodge County. He was also listed for taxation on Land Lot # 319 in the 14th District of Telfair County, and he owned the following property: 300 acres of land in Montgomery County, which had been granted to him, 342 acres of land in Burke County, which had been granted to him, 300 acres of land in Burke County, which he had bought, and Land Lot #245 in the 5th District of Baldwin County. He also paid taxes on four slaves.”

It appears that James Rountree married about 1810 or 1811, although  the record of this marriage and the name of his wife is not known at this time.  There are no extant records of the 1810 census in Georgia, and no records of this marriage have been reported from Burke, Wilkinson, Telfair, Laurens, or Pulaski counties.

What is known from the census of 1820, the 4th U.S. Census in Pulaski County, GA, is that the household of James Rountree there were four white children, three girls and one boy, all under age 10, and ten African-American slaves.  There were no free white adult females in his household. One would surmise that James Rountree was a widower, and that his first wife died sometime before 1820, leaving him to raise their four children.

1820 Census enumeration of the household of James Rountree, Pulaski County, GA seemed to indicate he was a widower living with his children and slaves.

1820 Census enumeration of the household of James Rountree, Pulaski County, GA seemed to indicate he was a widower living with his children and slaves.
 https://archive.org/stream/populationsc18200009unit#page/n100/mode/1up
http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/pulaski/census/1820/pg72a.txt

By matching family histories to the 1820 census, the children of James Rountree by his first wife were:

  1. John Rountree- died young
  2. Harriet Rountree (1812-1875); born January 15, 1812; married James McMullen, Jr., October 7, 1830; died November 10, 1873; buried James McMullen Cemetery, Brooks County, GA.
  3. Nancy Rountree (1814-1901); born October 25, 1813; married Clayton Bradshaw; died January 27, 1906, Brooks County, GA; buried John McMullen Cemetery  GroovervilleBrooks CountyGA
  4. Weston W. Rountree (1815-1895); born July 5, 1815; married Edith Elizabeth Folsom, daughter of William Folsom; died February 12, 1895, Lowndes County, GA; buried 
    Salem United Methodist Church Cemetery, Hahira, Lowndes County, GA
  5. Henrietta Rountree (1817-1901); born May, 1817; married Barry Wells, 1833 in Lowndes County, GA; died  ; buried  Berry Wells Family Cemetery, ShilohLowndes County, GA.

James Rountree first came to the southern region of Irwin County, GA in 1815.  According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2:

“Accompanied by three other enterprising and adventurous young men, James Rountree, Drew Vickers and Alfred Belote, [Lawrence Folsom] came to that part of Irwin county now included within the boundaries of Lowndes county, blazing his way through the wilderness on horseback.  

Rountree’s companions were Alfred Belote, Drew Vickers, and Lawrence Folsom.

The blue-eyed, fair-haired, 5’6″ Belote was 22 years old (born 1793). During the War of 1812, Belote was in the reserves with the 10th US Infantry but, according to the National Archives Register of Enlistments in the US Army, he was “discharged April 24, 1815, at Raleigh, NC, term expired,without joining regiment or corps.”  His father, Noah Belote, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  Drew Vickers, 40 years old, was a veteran of the Georgia Militia having served in 1793 in Captain Parrott’s Company of Washington County militiaLawrence Armstrong Folsom (1772-1842), at 43 years old was the senior of the group. His father was a Lieutenant in the Georgia Line during the Revolutionary War.  Folsom was also a veteran, having been commissioned an ensign in the Burke County militia on January 23, 1799. Folsom was married to Rachel Vickers; according to Folks Huxford she was a sister of Drew Vickers, but this is not confirmed by other researchers.

After exploring a considerable portion of South Georgia the quartet invested in government land…The four men went back to their homes in Pulaski and Burke counties, Rountree returning to his motherless children.  James Rountree appears in the 1818 Tax Digest of Pulaski County, paying taxes on 405 acres of pinelands and eight slaves.

The census of 1820 enumerates James Rountree in Pulaski County, GA with his children and slaves. Among his neighbors were William Hendley, his wife Millie Hendley, and four daughters; Nancy, Martha, Jane, and Sophia.  Also next door was the Hendley’s son, Horton Hendley and his family. William Hendley was a Scotsman and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served in the Virginia Continental Line.

After some time,  the four companions (Rountree, Vickers, Belote, and Folsom) made plans for relocating to the southern frontier they had explored in 1815,

Mr. Folsom buying a tract about a mile from Little River; Messrs. Rountree and Vickers located near by; and Mr. Belote purchased land that included the present site of the village of Mineola.

Again, Robert Jeffries reports,

“Irwin County deed records show that James Rountree of Pulaski County on March 6, 1821, bought Land Lot#497 of the 9th district of then Irwin, but later Lowndes County, from Kinchen P. Tyson of Jones County for $220 as recorded in Deed Book A on page 27. Also on October 16, 1821 he bought Land Lot #516 in the same district and county from Joseph Barr of Franklin County for $200 as shown in Deed Book A on page 25.”

The History of Lowndes County, GA reports that in 1821, the four settlers returned to that section of Irwin soon to be cut into Lowndes County. Sections in the north of old Irwin County had been settled and several counties had been laid out.  The families of James Rountree, Drew Vickers, Alfred Belote, and Lawrence Folsom and their African-American slaves were the first pioneer families to settle in the original county of Lowndes after moving there in the winter of 1821-1822.

“These gentlemen returned [to south Irwin County, soon to be Lowndes]… with their wives and children, continues A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, making the overland trip in carts drawn either by horses or mules, following Indian trails a part of the way, at other times making their own path through the trackless woods. Whenever they came to a stream too deep to ford, they swam their stock across, and built rafts on which to take their carts and household goods across.”

These pioneer families were pathfinders, bushwhacking their way through Wiregrass Georgia. But soon the Georgia General Assembly appropriated funds for construction of  a frontier road. It was on December 23, 1822, that General John E. Coffee and Thomas Swain were appointed to superintend the construction. Enoch Hall was employed as one of the overseers for the construction.  Coffee, Swain, and then Governor John Clark were all residents of Telfair County, which undoubtedly influenced the selection of the route. This road, soon known as Coffee’s Road, led to the creation of Lowndes County  It ran from Jacksonville on the Ogeechee River in Telfair County, southwesterly through the then county of Irwin (but now Coffee, Irwin, Berrien) through the then county of Lowndes (but now Berrien, Cook  and Brooks) into Thomas County and via Thomasville southwardly to the Florida line.   Coffee’s Road passed about seven miles west of Ray City, GA.

The Coffee Road provided a convenient route between the frontier homesteaders and their family connections in Telfair, Laurens, and Pulaski counties. It appears that about this time, James Rountree left his frontier home to make a return trip to Pulaski County seeking a wife and mother for his young children.   Pulaski county marriage records show James Rountree was married on March 6, 1823 in Pulaski County to Nancy Hendley.  She was the girl next door to Rountree’s Pulaski county property. She was born April 22, 1793 a daughter of William Hendley, Revolutionary Soldier.

1823 marriage certificate of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley, Pulaski County, GA

1823 marriage certificate of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley, Pulaski County, GA

Georgia
Pulaski County

To any ordained minister of the Gospel, Judge, Justice of the Inferior Court, or Justice of the Peace, to celebrate _________
You are hereby authorized and empowered to join in the holy state of matrimony according to the rites and ceremonies of your church James Rountree and Nancy Hendly and in so doing this shall be your sufficient warrant.
Given under my hand this 5th March 1823
Wesley Yarbrough D.C.C.O

The marriage of the with named James Rountree and Nancy Hendly was solomnized on the 6th March 1823 – W B McGehee J.P.

Entered by Wesley Yarbrough Clk Co

James Rountree took his bride back to his south Georgia place. That year, 1823 James’ brother, Francis Rountree,  also came south to homestead.  The home of Francis Rountree near the Withlacoochee River shortly became the center of governmental affairs for the county:  “On November 30, 1826, the county site of Lowndes County was changed from the house of Sion Hall to the house of Francis Rountree,” according to the Digest of Georgia.

The children of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley were:

  1. James Lester Rountree (1823-1905) 
  2. Annie B. Rountree (1826-1910); born January 1826, she was one of the first children to be born in Lowndes County, GA; married James Folsom, son of Lawrence Folsom;
  3. Georgia Ann Rountree (1834-1922); married J. W. Anderson; moved to Madison Florida

Of course, with the opening of Coffee Road and the creation of Lowndes County, many more settlers moved into south Georgia. Among the new arrivals were Jesse W. Hunter, Enoch Hall, Sion Hall, Hamilton Sharpe, David Mathis, Daniel McCranie and the families of William Anderson Knight and his son Levi J. Knight, who was the first to settle at the present day site of Ray City, GA.

James Rountree appears in the 1830 Tax Digest of Lowndes County and he paid taxes on Land Lots #451, 497, and 516 in the 9th District. The Rountree home and plantation was on Land Lots 497 and 516.  In 1833, he served on the Grand Jury of Lowndes County.

Of the Rountree, Vickers, Folsom, and Belote families, A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, says:

They were pioneers in very truth, being the first permanent white settlers of Lowndes county, more especially of its northern portion. There were no mills in that section of the country for several years thereafter, all the grain being ground in mills operated by hand. They kept sheep and raised cotton, and the women used to card, spin and weave the homespun material from which she fashioned all the garments worn by the family. The wild game found in the forests furnished the early settlers with a large part of their subsistence, while acorns, beech nuts and walnuts were so plentiful that the only need of feeding hogs was to keep them from growing wild, an occasional meal serving for that purpose. Very little ready money was then in circulation in the south, and in the newer settlements few store goods were used, salt, sugar and coffee being the principal articles brought in.

Pioneer settlers like James Rountree or Harmon Gaskins did most of their trading at Tallahassee in the Territory of Florida, at St. Marks or Newport on the Florida Gulf Coast, or traveled to the east to trade at Centerville, GA on the St. Marys River. Historian Folks Huxford wrote, “An occasional trip would be made to Savannah but most of the trips were made to the other points named; these trips were usually about once a year, and would last a week or ten days.” Huxford describes how the men traveled in horse-drawn carts, “In such event of a trip, … a journey made in company with two or three neighbors situated like himself.  They drove their carts sitting astride their horses, and took rest-spells by occasionally walking by the side of the horse.  Such trips had to be made to St. Marks, Fla., or to old Center Village in what is now Charlton county.  

It was on the return from an excursion to the Florida coast that James Rountree met his  death. Robert Jeffries reported:

James Rountree was murdered and robbed… near Tallahassee, Florida…  while enroute to the “salt works” on the Gulf of Mexico for salt. Early residents of Lowndes and adjoining counties made regular periodic trips to the Gulf for salt. From his obituary, in the “Southern Recorder” at Milledgeville in the April 16, 1834 edition, it is learned that Mr. Rountree was murdered on March 26, 1834, at night, in his camp on the road from Tallahassee to Thomasville, enroute home. He was supposedly killed by three Negroes, one of whom had been apprehended at this time. The deceased was possessed of a kind and gentlemanly deportment – an innocent and good man – a valuable pattern of frugality and industry. 

The story of the 1834 murder fueled southern plantation owners’ fears of slave violence. After the murder of James Roundtree , a group of citizens formed a vigilante committee calling themselves “The Regulators.” The group was organized at the gravesite of Mr. Roundtree and William Lester was elected as the leader. William Lester was a relative of Susan Bradford Eppes (1848-1942), who was born at Pine Hill Plantation, Leon County, FL and grew up hearing the tales of the murder of James Rountree.  The book Creating an Old South describes her later writings about how the “brave ‘Regulators’ led by her relative William Lester caught an interracial gang guarding the booty from a robbery. Then ‘twenty pairs of willing hands did quick work – tree limbs were stout and strong – and five white men and one negro were left hanging high as Haman.”

Rewards were offered for the capture of the two other alleged murderers.  The Governor of the Territory of Florida, William Pope Duval, in the final days of his administration offered a reward of $200 which was matched by the citizens of Tallahassee.

April 18, 1834, reward offered for the murder of James Rountree

April 18, 1834, reward offered for the murder of James Rountree

Georgia Constitutionalist
April 18, 1834

A reward of $200 is offered by the Governor of Florida, and $200 additional by the citizens of Tallahassee, for the apprehension of two runaways charged with the murder of James Roundtree.

The Tallahassee Floridian reported in the July 22, 1837 edition that the murder of Mr. Rountree near the Georgia line had been committed by two runaway slaves named Joe and Crittenden. “The editor of the Floridian claimed that ‘The object of the perpetrators is supposed to have been money, of which the deceased was known to have a small sum,’”   according to a study of  Slave Unrest in Florida published in the Florida Historical Quarterly.

James McMullen served as administrator for the estate of James Rountree, Lowndes County, GA, 1834

James McMullen served as administrator for the estate of James Rountree, Lowndes County, GA, 1834

Milledgeville Federal Union
July 23, 1834

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas, James McMullin applies for letters of administration on the estate of James Rountree, late of said county, deceased,

These are, therefore, to cite and admonish all and singular the kindred and creditors of said deceased to be and appear at my office, within the time proscribed by law, to show cause, if any exist, why said letters should not be granted.

Given under my hand at office, this 8th July, 1834.
William Smith, c.c.c.

Related Posts

Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

Berrien Skirmishes, the Battle of Brushy Creek, and the Indian Maiden

Grand Jurors of 1845, Lowndes County, GA

Pennywell Folsom Fell at Brushy Creek

Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savannah Georgian
July 12, 1827

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

Macon Telegraph.

Hamilton Sharpe and Lafayette

When General Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, returned to Georgia in 1825 great crowds thronged to Savannah for his arrival. Among those who gathered to greet the great man was Hamilton Sharpe,  pioneer settler of Lowndes County, GA.

Marquis de Lafayette, from Memoirs of General La Fayette, published 1825.

Marquis de Lafayette, from Memoirs of General La Fayette, published 1825.

“Arriving in Savannah on March 19, 1825, the sixty-seven-year-old Lafayette disembarked from his steamboat to a salute from the Chatham Artillery and the cheers of the crowd. The most poignant moments of his stay in Savannah came when he laid the cornerstones for monuments honoring two other Revolutionary War heroes, Count Casimir Pulaski and General Nathanael Greene.”  – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Hamilton W. Sharpe was just a boy when Lafayette visited Savannah, but his memory of the occasion lasted a lifetime. Sharpe grew up in Tatnall County, but when “a young man hardly in his twenties, had come down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home of Hon. Sion Hall at whose home the first court in Lowndes [county] was held a few months afterwards.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home; that was in 1826. 

Sharpe’s Store, on the Coffee Road, was the first commercial establishment  in Lowndes County, and became an early post office for the area.  Sharpe was active in politics, and served as a captain of local militia in the Indian Wars.  In religion, Hamilton W. Sharpe was a Methodist. He conducted a large bible class at old Bethlehem Church in Lowndes County, and was a friend and neighbor of Reverend Robert H. Howren. He was a trustee of the Fletcher Institute, of Thomasville, GA.  In his later years he was an innkeeper at Quitman, GA.

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

In 1886, Hamilton W. Sharpe wrote of his memories of Lafayette in a letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News (reprinted in the Oct 6, 1886 edition of the Waycross Headlight.)   Sharpe refers to his guests at  the Sharpe House as “inmates” and goes on to reminisce about the weather, his father’s business in Savannah, the Planters Hotel, and the people and places he knew in Savannah:

1886-oct-6-hamilton-w-sharpe

     Editor Morning News:  It has just been remarked by one of our inmates: “How awfully warm it is!”  This remark induced a peep at the themometer-not quite 90 deg.  This does not indicate very warm weather for the middle of September, but I notice that there is no rustling among the leaves on the  trees. Every thing is as “still as the breeze;” not even a shaking, and therefore I conclude that it is owning not so much to the intensity of the heat as the lack of wind, for I do not remember to have seen so little wind in the month of September so far.
      While I confess a deep sympathy for the citizens of our neighboring city of Charleston in all her unparalleled sufferings I am grateful, too, that your city, the emporium of the State of Georgia, has suffered less.
      The writer, though now 80 years of age, has a very distinct recollection of Savannah when but a little boy.  Along with his father, time and again, he visited the city to obtain many of the necessaries and luxuries of life. These were the days of small things to Savannah, compared to her present grand improvements.  Then the principal business of the city was done around the market square and north to the river.  The wholesale houses were principally from Nos. 1 to 8 Gibbons’ buildings, and there was no such thing as the Pulaski House, or the Marshall or Screven House.  The Planters’ Hotel was at that time the hotel of the city.
       Sometimes I have a very distinct recollection of the men with whom my father traded at the time – such men as Gildon, Edward Coppee and others – and the late Thomas Holcombe was a boy about my own age and size.
       Your stately printing and publishing hous was not there to adorn the cornner of Bay and Whitaker streets, nor was there any other important public buildings save the old Exchange.
       It was there the writer happening to be in the city, pressed himself along with the crowd, when the procession was formed in the long room of the Exchange to look upon the venerable features of Gen. Lafayette and shake his hand.  I have always been proud of the occasion and the act.  The next day the corner stone of the Greene and Pulaski monument in Johnson Square was laid.  Gen. Lafayette was the Grand Master of the occasion, and the following words were sung, to wit:

“And around thy brow will twine
The tender leaf of green which grew
In days of Auld Lange Syne.”

      And the wreath in the hands of one of Savannah’s beautiful daughters was fittingly and gracefully twined around the head of the venerable man whose name will ever be dear to Americans.
          The words were sung to the tune, “Auld Lang Syne.”
         Should you ever wander as far as Quitman inquire for Tranquil Hall or the Sharpe House, and you will find the house persided over by two old people who will be glad to see the editor of the Morning News, and will treat him kindly. Our prayer is that both your city and your sister City by the Sea will be relieved for the future of any further shaking up.

H. W. S.

Additional notes:

  • Charles Gildon was a Savannah, Georgia storekeeper. He is referenced in early Savannah newspapers between 1805 and 1855. Gildon’s shop was located on Lot 6, Digby Tything, Decker Ward which faced Ellis Square from 1815-1823.
  • Edward Coppee was a physician and merchant of Savannah, operating businesses at a number of locations in the city.
  • Thomas Holcombe (1815-1885) was a wholesale grocer of Savannah, and served as Mayor of the city during the civil war.

Related Posts:

Postmaster Hamilton W. Sharpe Takes Offense

Hamilton W. Sharpe

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

Sharpe first came to Lowndes via the Coffee Road:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sharpe's Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, Dec. 28, 1846.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAMILTON W. SHARPE.

Related Posts:

Magnum Post Office Briefly Served Pioneers of Old Berrien

Lowndes County, GA,  1839

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
April 28, 1836

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

Levi J. Knight ~ Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836

  1. Wayne County Beginnings 1803-1827
  2. Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836
  3. Seminole Wars 1836 – 1842
  4. Antebellum Wiregrass 1843 -1860
  5. Civil War 1861-1865
  6. Wiregrass Reconstruction 1866-1870

Settling in Lowndes County

About 1827 Levi J. Knight and his new bride Ann Herrin Clements homesteaded  on land on Beaverdam Creek, near the present day site of Ray City, GA.  In their first year on Beaverdam Creek, the Knights established a household and prepared to begin a family.

The Knight homestead was situated in Lowndes County (present day Berrien County).  When the first Superior Court in Lowndes County was convened at Sion Hall’s Inn on the Coffee Road, Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury. At that time, the only post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was  at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.   When Franklinville, GA became the first town in Lowndes County in 1828, the post office was moved there.  Located west of the Withlacoochee River about 9 miles southwest of the Knight property, Franklinville served as the first county seat of Lowndes County and a courthouse of hewn logs was constructed there at a cost of $215. According to Huxford’s “Sketch of the Early History of Lowndes County, Georgia“, Franklinville was a small trading community of one or two stores and a few houses. Hamilton W. Sharpe, a fellow Whig, regarded Franklinville a place of intemperance. Settlers in Lowndes County did most of their trading at Tallahassee, St. Marks or Newport, Florida, or traveled to Centerville on the St. Marys River.

In 1829, Levi  was Justice of the Peace for the 658th District, Lowndes County:

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Election Districts and Elections. Courts and elections to be held at the house of Sion Hall,  1825, vol. iv. 128 –  Removed to the house of Francis Roundtree, 1826, vol. iv. 134 –  Elections in the  15th district to be held at the house of Daniel Burnett; in the 16th, at the house of Silas Overstreet, 1828, vol. iv. 179 –  At Jesse Goodman’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Williams’ district; at Sion Hall’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Pike’s district; at John Townsend’s, being the court ground in Studhill’s district; at Levi Knight’s, the court place in Knight’s district; at Lewis Roberts’, the justices’ court place in Johnson’s district; and at Mr. Davis’, in Cowart’s district, 1829, vol. iv. 185—One dollar to the presiding magistrate for attending at the court-house to consolidate the returns, 1829, vol. iv. 409

Levi J. Knight received power of attorney from his father-in-law, William Clements, of Wayne County, on 19 Nov. 1830, “to appear for him in the Courts in Alabama and to sue for and collect all demands he has against Angus McDonald…” Angus McDonald had served as deputy clerk of the superior court of Wayne County. Georgia.  On December 24, 1822 William Clements had put up surety on the $1000 bond of Angus McDonald, guardian of Sidney Pilcher who was the orphan of Harriet Burney. Apparently, Clements had to make good on the surety, and he wanted Levi J. Knight to get his money back.

Ann gave birth to their first son,  William Washington Knight in 1829. Three more children were born over the next three years; Elizabeth (1830), John G. (1832), and Sarah (1833). During this period Levi J. Knight served out  his term (1829-1833) as Justice of the Peace, and returned to his experience as a surveyor, again mapping lands the state had gained from the Indians. As the state surveyor of Cherokee lands, Section 3, District 13, he took field notes  recording the distances and points demarcating the district and land lots, land features, roads, and watercourses. These field notes, along with those of other surveyors, were conducted prior to the distribution of lands in the 1832 Land Lotteries in Georgia.

Career in Public Service
“Levi, J. Knight, a planter of Berrien County…held several county offices; for a number of years he represented the county and was senator from his district in the general assembly.”
“He was commissioned a justice of the peace of the 658th district of Lowndes County in 1829, and served until 1832, when he was elected State senator from Lowndes County. He was again elected justice of the peace and commissioned October 15th, 1838. He served again as senator through the sessions of 1834-35 and 1837 to 1841. In 1845 he was again elected justice of the peace and served four years. In 1851 he was elected State senator from the 5th district, which then included Berrien County, and served through the session of 1851-52.”
Levi J. Knight was Sheriff of Wayne County (1824), Justice of the Peace of Lowndes County (1829-1833), State Senator from Lowndes County (1832, 1834, 1837, 1841). He was Senator from 5th District (1851-1856). He was Justice of the Berrien Inferior Court 1861, and a Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1868.
Levi J. Knight or one of his sons occupied a seat in the Georgia General Assembly for a period of forty years.

 Levi J. Knight was elected to the State Assembly as  Senator from Lowndes County in 1832 and 1834.  It was in this time that the Whig Party was rising against what was seen as executive excesses of “King Andrew” Jackson.  The Whigs favored national development and over time built an unlikely coalition of  anti-slavery, pro-slavery, and anti-masonic supporters. Levi J. Knight became a strong supporter of the Whig party and served as the Lowndes delegate to the Whig state conventions on several occasions.

In 1835, Levi J. Knight gave the Fourth of July oration at the county courthouse at Franklinville to a large crowd and enthusiastic crowd, “We have come up on the jubilee of our country’s liberty, to honor the day that gave birth to the greatest republic in the world.”  The celebration was followed by a banquet with 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.

Some time in the 1830s the Lowndes County center of government moved from Franklinville to the growing settlement of Lowndesville. Located about twenty miles south of the Knight homestead, Lowndesville was near the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers. This location was touted by some to become a riverboat landing and the prospect of river transportation was hoped to foster a pioneer boom period for the community, but according to Montgomery M. Folsom  that dream was never realized.

When the community had grown to about 25 families, the name of the town was changed to Troupville in honor of Georgia Governor George M. Troup.  Troup was an outspoken proponent of the State Rights theory, which asserted that individual states were not bound by Federal law. Levi J. Knight and many other pioneers of old Lowndes County were Troup supporters, and in 1834 Levi J. Knight and his father William A. Knight were instrumental in forming the  the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA.  Troupville quickly became the leading town in the region. In Troupville there were stores, hotels, churches, doctors, lawyers, newspapers, entertainment, even a bowling alley. The Knights were among the planters of Lowndes County who made Troupville their center of trade  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

In 1836 another daughter was born to the Knights, Mary Adelaide Knight. As a young woman, Mary would become the bride of Thomas M. Ray who, along with her father, founded the original grist mill at Ray City.

In the spring of 1836 there were reports and rumors of Indians attacking pioneers in other parts of the state. The Seminole War was brewing… and that summer the original settlers of Ray City, GA were engaged in Indian skirmishes.

  1.  (1942). History of Lowndes County: Georgia, 1825-1941. Valdosta, Ga.: General James Jackson chapter, D.A.R. Pg 5-6.
  2. Georgia. 1837. A digest of the laws of the state of Georgia: containing all statutes and the substance of all resolutions of a general and public nature, and now in force, which have been passed in this state, previous  to the session of the General assembly of Dec. 1837.pg 995
  3. THE SOUTH GEORGIA HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL QUARTERLY, VOL. 1, JULY 1922, NO. 3, pp. 03-05.OLD RECORDS BOOK “H” OF BONDS, WAYNE COUNTY, GEORGIA, COURT OF ORDINARY, FIRST 77 PAGES.
  4. Huxford,F. 1971. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VI, The Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia 1971. pg 139.’
  5. Huxford,F. 1954. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume II, Press of the Patten Publishers, Adel, Georgia, pg 176.
  6. Huxford, F. 1975, Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VII, Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia. pg 226.
  7. Huxford, F. 1967. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume V, Herrin’s Print Shop, Waycross, GA. pg 162.
  8. Georgia Surveyor General. 1832 – SURVEY RECORDS – FIELD NOTE BOOKS – Cherokee, Section 3, District 13, Levi J. Knight, 1832. http://find.sos.state.ga.us/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=324&q=&rootcontentid=231131#id231131
  9. Memoirs of Georgia, Volume I, Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 1895, Book, page 316
  10. Huxford, F. (1916). History of Clinch County, Georgia, , comp. and ed. by Folks Huxford. Macon, Ga: J.W. Burke. pg. 265
  11. Loyless, T. W. (1902). Georgia’s public men 1902-1904. Atlanta, Ga: Byrd Print. Pp 166.

Coffee Road Led to Creation of Lowndes County

When south Georgia was first organized into counties in 1818, the area of present day Berrien County was originally part of  old Irwin.  The land lots and districts in Berrien County are still derived from the original plat of Irwin County.  As related in a previous post (see Coffee’s Road Passed Seven Miles West of Ray City, the earliest roads in Berrien County date from shortly after the formation of Irwin.  In writing on the local histories of Wiregrass Georgia counties, Folks Huxford made a number of references to the Coffee Road, portions of which are  excerpted below.

1822 Map Detail showing Irwin County, GA

1822 Map Detail showing Irwin County, GA

The Coffee Road

The first two roads to be opened up in the new County of Irwin were the Roundtree Trail and the Coffee Road. The former extended from Pulaski County across the headwaters of the Alapaha River and entered present Tift County near Tifton, and then down the Little River. However, the Coffee Road became the great thoroughfare of travel.

It was the main thoroughfare from the older settled portion of the state into South Georgia and  Florida; and practically all traffic from and into Florida west of the Okefenokee Swamp, was over that road.  It led from Jacksonville on the Ogeechee River in Telfair County, southwesterly through the then county of Irwin (but now Coffee, Irwin, Berrien) through the then county of Lowndes (but now Berrien, Cook  and Brooks) into Thomas County and via Thomasville southwardly to the Florida line.

Coffee Road was opened up by the State under authority of an Act of the Legislature approved December 23, 1822.  John Coffee and Thomas Swain were  appointed to superintend the construction, which was undertaken at a cost of $1500.00  (see Coffee’s Road Passed Seven Miles West of Ray City. Enoch Hall, a Lowndes county pioneer and son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall, was an overseer in the laying out of the Coffee Road.

 The road was duly opened and became known as the ‘Coffee Road’ from the fact that Gen. John Coffee of Telfair County, one of the Commissioners, had charge of its opening.  It ran through the present counties of Berrien and Cook into Brooks and thence into present Thomas. It afforded the main highway of travel for some years down into Lowndes and Thomas and Decatur Counties and into West Florida.

Just two years after the cutting of Coffee’s Road, Lowndes County was cut from Irwin. The area of Lowndes county was still a huge country which then included present day Berrien County and many surrounding counties.  In those early days of Old Lowndes County, most of the settlement had occurred along the route of Coffee’s Road, or else along the Alapaha and Little rivers.

Glory, GA
Glory was a community that  grew up along the Coffee Road in Berrien county. In 1906 it was described as, “a post village on the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, about twelve miles northeast of Nashville, GA. It has some stores, which do a good local business, and does considerable shipping. The population in 1900 was 54.”

It appears there were several crossings of Coffee Road over the Alapaha River, being in service at different places and times

Lopahaw Bridge
The General Assembly acted in 1836 to fund the construction of a bridge across the Alapaha River stating”it is all important that a bridge should be built across the Lopahaw, at or near Coffee’s Road.”  According to the Legislative Act authorizing the Coffee Road, it crossed the Alapaha “at or near Cunningham’s ford on said river.”  In 1836 a public bridge was constructed over the river, but this bridge was condemned at the January 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court.

Marsh’s Ferry
William Green Avera stated that in the early days of the county, Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River at Marsh Ferry.   James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County states, “At the January term, 1842, an order was passed by the Inferior Court [Irwin County] an order was passed establishing a ferry across the Alapaha River at a place known as Marshes Ferry. The rates were fixed as follows: man and horse, twelve and one-half cents; man, horse and cart, twenty-five cents; two-horse wagon, fifty cents; four-horse wagon, one dollar; pleasure carriages, one dollar; gigs, fifty cents; jersey wagons, thirty-seven and one-half cents; mules and horses, 3 cents per head; cattle, 3 cents per head, sheep and hogs, one and one-half cents per head; foot  persons, free. Rates to be advertised at ferry.”

Tyson Ferry
At the 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court, according to James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County“Cornelious Tyson was granted authority to erect a ferry on Alapaha River on the Coffee road at the location of the condemned bridge and he is allowed to charge the following rates: man and horse, six and one-fourth cents; horse and cart, twenty-five cents; four-horse wagon, fifty cents; horse and buggy, thirty-seven and one-half cents.”  Cornelius Tyson was one of the five marking commissioners appointed by the state legislature in 1856 to fix the boundary lines of the newly created Berrien County.  Cornelius Tyson is enumerated in Berrien County, GA as Cornelius Tison in the Census 1860.

Futch’s Ferry
Futch’s Ferry was at the Withlacoochee River on the Coffee Road.

 

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

Mathis House Stagecoach Stop
In January 1826, David Mathis built a log home, a sturdy and comfortable home  for his wife, Sarah Monk, and family. This home was on the Coffee Road, one mile east of the present village of Cecil, Cook County. It was a stagecoach stop where the horses were rested. Many people in those pioneer days enjoyed the hospitality of the Mathis home. 

Folsom Bridge
Another waypoint on the Coffee Road, to the north of Hall’s Inn, was the Folsom Bridge,  where Coffee’s Road crossed the Little River.  William Folsom’s place was located about a mile and a half east of the bridge.

 Hall’s Inn
The home of Sion Hall, who had settled in the territory of present day Brooks County near Morven immediately upon the opening of Coffee Road  in 1823, was the county’s earliest tavern.  Hall’s home was the place of the first Superior Court in Lowndes County, with Judge Thaddeus G. Holt presiding and Levi J. Knight foreman of the Grand Jury.   Being located on the only thoroughfare in the section, ” it was therefore accessible to other pioneers settling in the area.  When Lowndes county was being organized, the Georgia legislature designated Hall’s residence as the site for elections and county courts, until such time as a permanent site could be selected.  The Sion Hall home was situated about 1 1/2 miles northward from Morven, and was on land lot No. 271, in the 12th District of old Irwin County….  The home of Hon. Sion Hall was a public inn on the Coffee Road for many years, and many people stopped there for a meal or to spend the night, and the place found favor with the traveling public.  The Hall home was capable of accommodating as many as twelve or fifteen people at one time without inconvenience.  Overflow guests were allowed to sleep on improvised beds on the floor.  ‘Hall’s’ was always a stopping point usually for the night for judges and lawyers going from Troupville to Thomasville during the semi-annual court sessions.”

McCranie’s Post Office
“The first post office in original Lowndes County was established in 1827 at the home of Daniel McCranie in present Cook County.  This was on the Coffee Road.  The Coffee Road was the main stagecoach route from the upper part of the state, and was also the mail route.”

Sharpe’s Store
“The next point of interest on the Coffee Road after leaving McCranie’s post office was ‘Sharpe’s Store’ which was in present Brooks County and situated some fifteen miles westward from old Franklinville [ approximately 25 miles southwest of the point where the Knights settled at the present day site of Ray City, GA]. Hamilton W. Sharpe, then a young man hardly in his twenties, had come down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home of Hon. Sion Hall at whose home the first court in Lowndes was held a few months afterwards.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home; that was in 1826.  He along with others expected that the permanent county-seat would be established there.

Hendry’s Mill
William Hendry brought his family from Liberty County, GA to Lowndes County (now Brooks) about 1827, and settled  in the vicinity where Coffee Road crosses Mule Creek, about midway between Pavo and Quitman, GA. William Hendry was one of the prominent citizens of Lowndes County in his day…his upright and godly life and character has been handed down, by word of mouth, to the present generation. The Hendrys seem to have had skill building and operating mills in Liberty County and again on Mule Creek in his new home. He erected the first water driven mill in this part of Georgia.

Lovett’s Dinner House
“There were no further inns on the Coffee Road until James Lovett’s home and inn was reached, which was about fifteen miles east of Thomasville near the then Lowndes and Thomas county line.  Lovett’s was reached about noon after setting out from Hall’s after breakfast.  Most travelers stopped there for dinner, hence Lovett’s hospitable home was called a ‘dinner house.'”  According to Ed Cone’s Coffee Road website, “This dinner-house was operated by James Lovett and is located at the crossroad of the Salem Church Road and the Coffee Road about two miles west of Barwick, GA. James Lovett married Catherine (Katy) Zitterauer and they are the parents of Rachel Lovett who married James Cone. They are ancestors of a large Cone family in Thomas County. The “Lovett’s Dinnerhouse has been remodeled but still stands.”

Construction and Maintenance of Coffee Road

“The Coffee Road was maintained by road-hands in the various counties through which it passed, and was in no sense a state road as would be understood nowadays.  The only part the state had was in the opening of it before people ever settled in the territory through which it passed. Gen. Coffee, at the expense of the State, employed a crew of men, some thirty or forty, free-labor, and with the help of state surveyors, projected the road through a wild and uninhabited territory.  It was just wide enough for two vehicles to pass and was not ditched or graded as is done at present (roads never had ditches until after the Civil War and very few then for many years). “

The streams were either “forded” or crossed by means of ferries owned by private individuals.  Fares for ferries were fixed in each county in those days by the Inferior Court.  In times of high water the streams which were “forded” would often “swim” the horse and vehicle for two or three days and at times even longer, and only those on horse-back could have any reasonable hope of making a trip without interruptions.  There were no bridges on any of the streams until after the Civil War.

The 1829 Gazetteer of the State of Georgia, in describing the road from Milledgeville to Tallahassee, stated:

“This is a stage road once a week. Fare $25. Leaves Milledgeville on Wednesdays… The road via Jacksonville and Thomasville is [246 miles] and is destitute of water for many miles.”

Using a historic standard of living for comparison, the $25 fare would have equated to about $612 in 2010 dollars.

Charles Joseph La Trobe, an early traveler on the Coffee Road, wrote about his experiences in 1837.

Charles Joseph La Trobe, an early traveler on the Coffee Road, wrote about his experiences in 1835.

In 1833, Charles Joseph La Trobe, an English traveler and writer, rode from Tallahassee, FL to Milledgeville, GA  via the weekly stagecoach.  Before departing Tallahassee, La Trobe apparently sampled the local hospitality:

In referring to Tallahassee beverages, the traveler [La Trobe] described the mint-julep, mint-sling, bitters, hailstone, snowstorm, apple-toddy, punch, Tom and Jerry and egg-nogg. He was about to give the recipe for mint-julep when he used the following language: “Who knows, that if you get hold of the recipe, instead of being an orderly sober member of society, a loyal subject, and a good Tory; you will get muzzy, and hot-brained, and begin to fret about reform, and democratic forms of government, – doubt your bible – despise your country – hate your King – fight cocks, and race like a Virginian – swear profanely like a Western man – covet your neighbors’ goods like a Yankee speculator – and end by turning Radical Reformer!”  –Thomasville Times, Jun. 22, 1889 — page 7

Despite his warnings to others, La Trobe made notes on the recipes of these concoctions for his own personal use. One wonders if the aftereffects of too much ‘Julep’ were not causative of the ill description of the trip to Milledgeville in his book, “The Rambler in North America:

“…we were well aware that there was some sore travelling in advance.  The roads through the south of Georgia are in the roughest state. The public vehicle which, as it happened, we had all to ourselves, rattled however over the country, when practicable, at the heels of a pair of stout young horses, from stage to stage, with a good-will and rapidity, which would have been very satisfactory, had the impediments in the roads and in the state of the crazy carriage permitted constant advance; but we only reached Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia, after three days and nights of incessant travel and that after a goodly proportion of breakdowns and stickfasts, besides having to wade many deep creeks and swim one or two.
The streams were all flooded and ferries and bridges were seldom seen and I would rather take my chance for swim than pass over the rocking and fearful erection they call a bridge which under that name span many of the deep rivers on the road nearer the coast, and however rotten, are seldom repaired till some fatal accident renders the repair imperative.  Yet the coolness with which the coachman, after halting for a moment on the edge of the steep broken declivity, and craning forward to look at the stream in advance, broad, muddy, and rapid, running like a mill-race, will then plunge into it with his horses, descending down till the water covers their backs, is admirable.  On these occasions we always thought that a preparation to swim was no sign of cowardice, and made our precautions accordingly.  From all this you may gather that travelling in the South is still in its infancy, and I may add shamefully expensive.  You pay exorbitantly for the meanest fare.
Of the scenery, I need say but little.  A great proportion of our route lay over an uninteresting pine-covered country, but there were frequent towns springing up along the line which will doubtless become more and more frequent…’

Prior to the opening of the Coffee Road in 1823, there were very few pioneer families in all of Irwin County ( then encompassing present day Lowndes, Thomas, Worth, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Coffee Lanier, Tift, Turner, Ben Hill, Colquitt, and parts of Echols and Atkinson counties). Folks Huxford dated the earliest settlement of present day Brooks County. originally part of Lowndes, as occurring in 1823 after the Coffee Road was opened.

“The influx of settlers was so great that within two years after the Coffee Road was opened up there had moved in approximately two hundred families, so that the southern half of the county [of Irwin] was cut off and made into the new County of Lowndes.

Mapquest Route connecting remaining sections of Coffee Road.

Mapquest Route connecting remaining sections of Coffee Road.

Levi J. Knight and Lowndes First Superior Court.

Levi J. Knight, the earliest Wiregrass pioneer to make his home on Beaverdam Creek at the site of present day Ray City, GA was among the prominent men of early Lowndes County (later, Berrien County.) When the first Superior Court in Lowndes County was convened in 1825 at Sion Hall’s Inn on the Coffee Road, Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury.  L. J. Knight’s father, William A. Knight was also present for the court session, which was a social event as much as a judicial one.  If the first court was indeed convened in 1825 it was quite a Christmas affair, as the county of Lowndes was only created by the Georgia legislature on December 23, 1825.

An 1888 article in the Valdosta Times reflected upon that first court session, Judge Thaddeus G. Holt presiding. While the name of the Solicitor-General is not given, in December, 1825 that position would have been filled by Thomas D. Mitchell. (Mitchell was killed in a duel in March 1826).

The Valdosta Times
Valdosta, GA
Oct. 13, 1888
The First Superior Court.

…I now turn the leaves of time back nearly seventy years to the time when Jackson having purchased Irwin and Early counties of the Creek Indians the people east of the Ocmulgee river began to cross over and settle the vast region of wilderness now known as the wiregrass.
    West of the Alapaha the first white settler was Joe Bryant in the fork of Ocapilco and Mule Creek.
    The first house built in Lowndes was by James Roundtree, and on the lands now owned by West and James Roundtree in the northwest corner of the county [Lowndes].  Here was born in 1823 Irwin Belote, who is in fact the oldest inhabitant, save uncle Mose Lucas, who came here a grown man and is over 100 years old.  Ah, met Irwin has had a time of it, but in his time a country that was well supplied with Indians, bears, panthers, wolves and other unfriendly neighbors, has been populated and made to produce support for many thousand people.
    Of course our forefathers were rough, but like Gen. Taylor were also ready in good deeds.  Pardon me kind reader if in recording some scene of the twenties or thirties you recognize a venerated ancestor, they were honest, brave men, but saw some fun when whiskey, that would put to shame our $2.00 cost, could be bought at three and four bits a gallon.
    I believe Holt was judge, I know Levi J. Knight was foreman of the grand jury, and Sion Hall’s house, now in Brooks county near Morven was the place of our first superior court.
    The men of Lowndes were gathered from the Alapaha to Mule Creek, from the village of LeConte to the Florida line, as much to see, hear, get acquainted, drink whiskey and swap horses as any thing else.
    And Father Knight was there the first minister in the county, and John C. Underwood was there.  They said I favored him when a boy, of whom more hereafter.
    Uncle John and Uncle Isben and Jack Sweat and Elze Lellman — well why enumerate.
    There were idle brains and the devil rolled up his sleeves and entered his shop as the peeped through tumbler bottoms.  After the half pints had vanished some of the old men could see their youthful days again and began to act.
    “Boys lets have a foot race,” said Hall as the crowd began to brag–old men of “when-I-was-young,” and young men of the present, “Why, uncle Green, Jack can beat you now, and give you ten steps the start for a quart!”  “Bet a quart he can’t”, came from the crowd.  Judges were selected, also a track, and as they ran Jack who was sober tripped uncle Green who was “stimulated” and sprained arm and no doctor the consequence.
    Uncle Green was carried into the dwelling of Mr. Hall.  Near the fire place the court was in session.  At the farther end of the room were two beds on one of which lay uncle Green.  “Father Knight, I’m ruined, I’m eternally ruined!” wailed uncle Green.  “Hush Green, hush!” said uncle John, who had also seen through the glass.  “Durn you, you’ll disturb the court!”
    The judge, convulsed with laughter, adjourned in honor of the occasion.  Men were men in those days.

One Year later, the legislature moved the county site from the house of Sion Hall to the house of Francis Rountree.

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