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A Brief Sketch of Charlton County and Her People

The Waycross Reporter

November 22, 1888

Away back in the early fifties it was decided by “those in authority over us” to divide Camden, and while the eastern portion retained its original name, the western division was named Charlton.

In those days each county had its own State Senator as well as Representative, and the young county proved its wisdom by selecting as their delegates two of the best men of the county, namely, Hon. James Thompson for the Senate and Hon. Henry Roddenberry for the House of Representatives.

Long ago as it has been we still have our old friend Hon. James Thompson with us. The frost of many winters has left his hair silver white but the Judge is still a hale old man. Since those days of Charlton’s infancy he has represented and watched over her interests at Milledgeville and Atlanta as the chosen representative of his fellow citizens, and a more faithful and conscientious man they could not have found.

The career of his colleague was cut short. During his life Hon. Henry Roddenberry was one of the prominent men of the county and though he has gone over to the “great majority,” he has left sons behind him that keep the Roddenberry name well to the front. Not only is this so in time of peace but when the “Lost Cause” needed men the Roddenberry boys went out with other of Charlton’s noble sons.

In consequence of the windings of the St. Marys River Charlton assumes a strange shape. On the north are the counties of Ware, Pierce and Wayne; on the south Baker County, Fla., and on the west the great Okefinokee Swamp.

On the northern bank of the St. Marys River, and halfway between the northeastern and southwestern extremities is Traders Hill, the county site. Its very name is historical, for it was the trading point between the white and the redmen in the early settlement days.

Before Florida was purchased from Spain, the whole of the border counties suffered through the incursions of horse thieves, murderers and desperadoes of every clime and color. During those days Traders Hill suffered greatly both from the Indians and these outlaws from justice.

Though the county site, Traders Hill is not the most important place in Charlton. The “iron horse,” that great revolutionist of modern times, has decreed otherwise. It has seen brighter days than it now enjoys.

When the people who live between Traders Hill and Florida (in the bend of the river) turn their attention more to farming than they have done in the past, and we expect that will not be until every available stick of timber has been cut, then Traders Hill may experience a revival of trade. Before leaving the Hill we must not forget to mention a few of those who dwell there, and among the most noted characters is Mr. John Brooks. If anyone should undertake to write a history of Charlton of this era it would not be complete without mention of Mr. Brooks. Very eccentric indeed is he, a man that has had great influence and a power for doing much good in his day.

The Bryants and the Mattoxes also belong to the Hill and like all true Georgians, there is no end to their hospitality and cleverness. Some of Charlton’s most energetic citizens live in what is called “the clouds.”

We have seen samples of their manhood and they were strong and robust. Our old friend Judge Thompson lives there and he is one of our well-to-do farmers, as well as statesmen, counting his property value by the thousands of dollars, which he made for the most part off of his plantation in the “bend”. Most of the citizens of this part of the county are good old time Primitive Baptist brothers and sisters, and the Judge is one of the pillars of the church.

Along the eastern edge of the Okefinokee Swamp is a strip of good farming land. One of the Roddenberry boys, G.W., has been very successful on his farm here. By industry and perseverance in the prime of life, he has placed himself in very easy circumstances.

On Spanish Creek near the Swamp lives Mr. Owen Mizell. Mr. Mizell is universally known as “Uncle Owen”. He is among the oldest citizens of the county and has lived on his present place beyond the average length of man’s days. For many years he has been a Primitive Baptist preacher, and judging the tree by its fruits, he is striving to leave the world better than he found it. He has been a successful farmer in his day and has one of the best pieces of land in this section of country.

Going on towards Pierce County, we come to the turpentine farm of J. Rawls, originally from Virginia. He came to this country with Mr. James B. Baker, deceased, when a young man and liked the country so well he decided to make this county his home. Mr. Rawls has been very successful in his undertakings and from a worker for daily wages, he has by dint of hard and persistent toil, climbed up the ladder of fortune, until he is now the owner of the firm at Moonshine and has a half interest in a firm in Johnson County. He is a successful farmer, as well as a turpentine man, raising large quantities of grain every year.

Right on the line of Charlton and Pierce is Capt. W.W. Milikin, a Northern gentleman, who has been turning the resinous gum of the Okefinokee pine trees into available wealth. Capt. Milikin is running two stills and this year has been engaged in hauling turpentine from that famous portion of the great swamp, known as the Cow-house.

The S.F. & W. Railway enters Charlton at Capt. Milikin’s place, Race Pond, and passing Moonshine, we reach Uptonville, known in the postal directory as Wainwright. At this place a sawmill has been busy for the past four years and yet the timber in the neighborhood is unlimited. Here we find Mr. Frank D. Wainwright, the postmaster, after whom the authorities at Washington named the post office. Mr. Wainwright is a true Georgian for generosity. His father, Mr. James Wainwright, also lives here.

We take up Folkston next, which is really the most important place in Charlton. A few years ago where Folkston now is there was nothing but a sand hill. The railway people sent out a decree that Folkston was to be a station, since those days it has been steadily pushing to the front. The railway authorities have done a great deal to help it forward, by erecting a splendid depot.

Folkston is the last station in Georgia and we are reminded of our lessons in European geography, for the first station reached in Florida is Boulogne, after crossing the St. Marys River; while if we sail from Folkstone in England, in a south-easterly direction we reach Boulogne in France.

Folkston is a live little place, with a large Masonic Lodge, six stores and two good hotels. The hotels are in charge of Messrs. Hatcher and Roddenberry.

Mr. L.M. Bedell has in addition to his store, cotton gin and grist mill, which has induced the farmers around to plant more extensively in cotton. Mr. James W. Leigh is also a very enterprising business man, and besides his store has a cotton gin and grist mill. He also runs a sheep farm at his old homestead. J.S. Cavedo, besides being storekeeper, in which his brother is also interested, is postmaster.

A few years ago Mr. J.P. Stallings moved into Folkston and proved very clearly that truck farming in early vegetables could be carried on successfully. Capt. Milikin, of Race Pond and Mr. J.P. Stallings are arranging to erect a turpentine still at Folkston, which will add to its commercial importance.

Leaving Folkston about a mile and a half, and going in an easterly direction, we come to Centre Village. Around this place the ancient glory of Charlton centres, and even before Charlton was, we are told of the proud position Centre Village occupied, long before Waycross was dreamt of. It was in Centre Village the merchant princes of Savannah, 

Guckenheimer, Vivalonga and Acosta made a start to climb “Fortune’s diamond ridge.” But alas! Nothing remains of her ancient greatness, nevertheless her history is sacred to Charlton’s sons and daughters.

Still keeping our course eastward, we come to the farm of Mr. John Vickery, who raises some of the finest and most delicious peaches we have ever seen. We turn a little to the north and find ourselves, after about two or three miles’ travel, in the vicinity of the Mills settlement. It is here that the last county representative lives. Hon. S.F. Mills is one of the most successful farmers of the county.

Crossing Bailey Branch we reach Mr. Joshua Mizell’s plantation. Mr. Mizell was born in 1801, so he is 87 years old this present year. He has three sons, two of whom are in the sawmill business at King’s Ferry, as J. Mizell & Bro., and the younger son, Mr. J.P. Mizell, has charge of the whole farming and timber interest. This summer Mr. J. Mizell had a good comfortable “house” erected for his father, on which he expended two thousand dollars.

Within sight of the Mizell residence is Hon. Felder Lang’s place. Mr. Lang is genial and pleasant whenever you meet him. He is also a thorough farmer and enjoys it. Hon. Jehu Paxton of Spanish Creek is another of Charlton’s leading farmers. Mr. Paxton is a valued county officer.

Leaving Mr. Lang’s, we soon reach the Satilla River, which here divides Charlton from Camden. We are now not far from the large rice plantations, which from here to the Atlantic are very numerous.

Turning north and following the course of the river we find ourselves in a well timbered country. The people not rich, but for the most part doing well.

Bearing a little to the west we soon reach Buffalo Creek and find we are in the neighborhood of another turpentine farm, by the white-faced trees all around us. After riding through this fantastic-looking timber for about five miles, our nostrils are assailed by a strong aroma, which proves to be distilled turpentine.

We are now at the turpentine works of P.H. Baker. Mr. Baker is the second son of the late James B. Baker, who was one of the most successful turpentine men of the state. Mr. P.H. Baker seems to have inherited his father’s business taste and forethought, for although yet a young man, he has been for six or seven years running a large turpentine business, and has this year increased his responsibilities by putting up a sawmill and cotton gin, and erecting a large store.

Mr. Baker is one of the most enterprising young men of the county. Since enlarging his business he has decided to make this spot his home so he is now having a fine house built, which will cost between two thousand five hundred and three thousand dollars. The man who has charge of the work, W.W. Cushing, is one of the most remarkable men we have ever met. He is the same builder that Mr. J. Mizell employed to build his father’s house and in fact has built most of the large houses in Nassau, Fla. and this vicinity, and was also employed on the Ponce de Leon at St. Augustine.

The remarkable part about Mr. Cushing is that he can get the whole of the framing out for a two-story ten-roomed house before a stick is laid and not one piece will fit amiss. Mr. Mizell’s house was cut out at King’s Ferry a month before it was hauled to Charlton and Mr. Baker’s frame was cut out a long time before it was put together. This proves he must be a good carpenter and calculator.

Then he builds the chimneys and in a house like Mr. Baker’s where there are ten fire-places, four of which are upstairs, this is no novice’s work. He has also proved himself an expert painter, and in fact he completely upsets the old adage, “jack of all trades, master of none,” for W.W. Cushing is master of each.

This place for the last few years has been known as Britton, in honor of Mr. Baker’s father, but it has now grown of some importance and as the nearest post office, Nahunta, in Wayne County on the B. & W. Railroad is seven miles away’ it was decided to make application for a post office here. The authorities requested that the name of Britton be changed as there were names very similar already in Georgia, so it was changed to Bachlotte, Mrs. P.H. Baker’s family name.

The Johns family are around here in numbers. Verily, it may be said “The woods are full of ‘em.”

Charlton boasts of a number of good schools, and the educational interests of the county are being advanced every year.

The religious welfare of the county is watched over by the Primitive and Missionary Baptists and Methodists.

Well, we are through with our little sketch of Charlton and her citizens, having rambled from the winding St. Marys River to the clear waters of the Buffalo and touched upon the magnificent Okefeenoke Swamp. The Swamp abounds with fish and game and those who enjoy chasing wild animals through the forest and swamp will find sport no end to it here in Charlton.

From an agricultural point of view Charlton offers special inducements, and being perfectly healthy, it is an inviting field for the immigrant seeking a permanent, pleasant and profitable location. Charlton is a good county, and lands may be bought cheap within her borders.

from DeBrahm's Report
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