Early History of Lowndes County and Valdosta , Georgia

First Settlers - Creation of Lowndes County

In 1821 four settlers moved to that section of Georgia which is now known as Lowndes County. Sections to the north had been settled and several counties had been laid off. The country into which these four settlers moved their families was a wilderness and Indians were numerous.

The first settlers found a region of gently rolling uplands with extensive forests of pine and oak, flatwoods of longleaf pine and wire grass, and an undulating southern section dotted with lakes and lime sinks. The fine sandy loam of the northern part promised good crops, and a soil recognized as productive for farming and stock raising stretched from the Withlacoochee along the south side of Cherry Creek to Skipper Bridge and beyond to Cat Creek. The newcomers marveled at the expanse of yellow pine.

The first settlers were James Rountree, Lawrence Folsom, Drew Vickers and Alfred Belote. They each brought their families and made the journey in covered wagons. Each man selected his lot of land and proceeded to erect modest homes. Lawrence Folsom and Drew Vickers located in the northern section of the county. They chose the high ground which was good for general farming and excellent for raising stock.

The Coffee Road was the first major thoroughfare for settlers into south Georgia. Commissioned by the state in 1822, General John Coffee and the militia cut the road from Jacksonville in Telfair County to Duncansville in Thomas County. One man who realized the opportunity opened up by the Coffee Road was Sion Hall. He lived in Irwin County at the time of the 1820 census. Hall and his sixteen-year-old son Enoch had come into the new region to select a homeplace on the route. They "rambled around a while looking for a good spot to settle to build a house and a store," eventually deciding upon a site, Lot No. 271 in the northeast section of District 12, about two miles north of present Morven in Brooks County. Sion Hall brought in a sawmill that he had, along with a "good many" slaves and his horses, and cleared the land and with the dressed lumber build a home on the west side of the Coffee Road. He then brought in his family and household goods. After other settlers began to arrive, Sion Hall build a store in a pine thicket across the road from his house thus establishing the first commercial enterprise in the county, and he provided for the needs of newcomers and travelers. The first session of court in Lowndes County was held at the home of Sion Hall, where the judge, jurors and the spectators sat upon logs arranged in the yard. Hamilton W. Sharpe, who clerked in Sion Hall's store for several years, eventually purchased Mr. Hall's interest in the store. Hamilton W. Sharpe was very active in establishing the first post office in Lowndes County in 1827 and became the first post master. The post office was known as Sharpe's Store.

Soon after the opening of the Coffee Road, other settlers rapidly moved into the area. This section of Georgia was very fertile, as it is now, and it was easy to make a prosperous home in the new and undeveloped land. In the space of three or four years the country had become thickly settled. About 1823 John Bryan homesteaded upon land in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule creeks, and Washington Joyce farmed east of the Little River where he put into operation a ferry at Miller's Bridge.

In 1825 it was decided to petition the legislature to create a new county. The name selected for the new county was Lowndes, and at the meeting of the General Assembly that year the act creating Lowndes County was passed.

In deciding upon a name for their county, these early settlers went outside of their own State and elected to choose Lowndes, in honor of William Jones Lowndes, one of the distinguished sons of South Carolina. William Jones Lowndes was the son of Rawlings Lowndes, who was a leader in the affairs of South Carolina during and after the Revolutionary War. The man for whom Lowndes County was named was noted as a learned scholar and for his mildness of disposition. He was not vigorous in health and was forced to decline the honor of having his name placed before the people as a candidate for the presidency of the United States at the time of the election of James Monroe for the second term.

Lowndes County was created by cutting Irwin County into two parts. The northern portion remained Irwin, while most of the southern portion was called Lowndes. The new county, when originally marked out, was sixty-two miles from north to south and forty miles from east to west. It contained 2,080 square miles. It was bounded on the north by Irwin County, on the east by Ware County, on the south by the State of Florida, and on the west by Thomas County.

Settlers continued to move into the newly formed Lowndes County. Many came from South Carolina; for example, the Howells loaded their household goods in wagons, gathered together their children and their children's children, their slaves, and their stock, left the Carolina Barnwell District, and located in the southeast section of the county around Howell. Jesse Carter settled on Lot No. 375. District 11, to the east; James McMullen on Lot No. 142, District 15, in the southwest; and Thomas M. Dees in Lots No. 26 and 27, District 11, near Mud Swamp. A. B. Shehee and Samuel Swilley lived in the Mud Swamp area which also proved to be good farm land. Samuel Swilley had a substantial log house on the edge of the woods and log cabins for his slaves in the midst of his corn field. He possessed a pond with a mill whose water power he used to grind corn, to saw logs and to gin cotton.

James Edmondson was born in Warren County, Georgia, and grew up in Bulloch County. During the winter of 1827-1828 he came to Lowndes with his wife and two children, living first on Lot No. 362, District. He later moved to a new homeplace about four miles east of Hahira.

Franklinville

Included in the act to create Lowndes County, Lawrence Folsom, Sion Hall, William Blair, John J. Underwood, and Daniel McCauly were appointed commissioners for selecting a public site in the new county. Eventually the commissioners decided on a permanent site and in 1827 the Assembly declared Franklinville, Lot No. 20, District 11, to be the county seat. The commissioners had chosen a place adjacent to a good spring on the Withlacoochee River near Skipper Bridge and close to the homes of Elias Skipper, Francis Rountree, and a number of Parrishes, a few miles east of what is now Hahira. William Smith, who later opened the first hotel at Troupville, was the first settler of Franklinville. Mr. Smith was appointed postmaster at Franklinville in 1828 and served there until he became postmaster at Troupville in 1837. John J. Underwood, attorney-at-law, John and James Matthis, Martin Shaw, who was sheriff of Lowndes in 1836-1837, and Aaron Smith were also Franklinville residents. Franklinville was made up of only a few houses and three log buildings, the court house, the post office and a store. Residents of the area still did most of their trading in Tallahassee, St. Marks, and Newport, Florida. Court convened for the first time in the new log public building at Franklinville for the May term 1829. Franklinville proved unsatisfactory both as a business location and as the public site, and by 1833 a new county site was decided upon.

Lowndesville - Troupville

By 1833 the appointed commissioners had all resigned or refused to act, and the justices of the inferior court appointed new commissioners to fix upon a new county site. First selected was Lowndesville in Lot No. 109, District 12 near Ousley, south of U. S. Route 84. Lowndesville proved to be no more satisfactory than Franklinville, so once more the citizens of Lowndes shifted the county seat. A new commission composed of Samuel M. Clyatt, William Folsom, William Henry, Jarrel Johnson, John Knight, John Lindsey and Henry Strickland favored a location at the junction of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers, and in 1837 Troupville became the county site.

Troupville was named in honor of Governor George M. Troup, one of Georgia's most noted governors. Governor Troup was a passionate defender of States Rights, and thought nothing of telling the United States to mind its own business when there was trouble in the State with the Creek Indians and the Federal Agents wanted to come in and take part in settling the difficulties.

During this time many new settlers were coming in and the entire county was being rapidly developed. There were several splendid farms near Troupville as well as in other parts of the county, and the residents of Lowndes County were becoming known for their wealth and progress.

There are many names still common in Lowndes and other counties of Georgia which were well known among the first settlers. When Troupville was settled among the first to move in were William Knight, Benjamin Sirmans, Henry Hightower, Levin Green, Henry Underwood, Thomas and Joshua Griffin and T.O. Townsend.

Among the prosperous planters living near Troupville and making that town their trading headquarters were Ivy Simmons, Matthew Young, Minchen Bradford, Berry Jones, I. H. Tillman, Frank Jones, C. H. Dasher, James Shanks, Jonothan Studstill, Granville Bevil, Beni Boyd, Israel Walthauer, General DeLoach, the Wisenbakers, Knights, Carters, McCalls, Spains, Belotes, Rountrees, and Folsoms.

The new town of Troupville became the major access to the new state of Florida, therefore, it thrived. The settlement soon became the leading town in this section of the state and new families moved in rapidly. Among those coming in were Dr. William Ashley, Dr. Henry Briggs, Albert Converse, Willis Allen, William Bradford, Thomas B. and Joshua Griffin, William Smith, William Newborn, Tom Holton, Duncan Smith, Hiram Hall, Morgan Swain, John Towls, Col. Enoch Hall, Ludwick Miller, John Tison, James McCardel, Moses Smith, Chas. C. Morgan, Chas. S. Rockwell, H. W. Sharpe, Love Green, Frank Rountree, and the Sirmans.

Among the first lawyers in Troupville were Charles S. Rockwell, T.O. Townsend, J. J. Underwood, Charles C. Morgan, James W. Patterson, and Powhatan B. Whittle.

Dr. William Ashley and Dr. Henry Briggs were the first doctors. Mr. William Smith kept the first hotel and was the first postmaster. Mr. Mose Smith had the first store; Mr. Duncan Smith was the first county clerk; Rev. H. W. Sharpe was the first preacher and Morgan Campbell was the first tax collector.

Creek Indian War

The Indians had given the early settlers some trouble, but there were not very many Indians in this immediate section, and as a result, the settlers did not have much trouble with them as was had in some other sections of the state. However, from time to time there would be fighting.

One battle of consequence between the Indians and settlers occurred at Brushy Creek in 1836. The scene of the battle was in that section of the state now included in Berrien County. A number of residents of Lowndes County took part in the battle.

The Indians had been giving more than the usual amount of trouble for some time. General Scott was in charge of a force of men in that section of the state about the Chattahoochee River, and he was making a determined effort to drive the Indians out. Accordingly, they were passing through the north end of Lowndes County in large numbers on their way to Florida to join the Seminoles. After several attacks by these passing Indians the call was sent out for volunteers and a number of well known residents of Lowndes County responded. A company of militia was organized under Colonel Henry Blair, Captains Enoch Hall, Levi J. Knight and Hamilton W. Sharpe. Mindful of the threat, Colonel Blair reported the approach of 2,000 Indians on their way toward Lowndes County and requested a hundred muskets, cartridge boxes, and ammunition to protect the county's exposed position. Before the governor could respond with arms or men, Lowndes countians fought the battle of Brushy Creek, which took place July 10, 1836. Levi J. Knight described the fight to the governor, who later commended Knight and his comrades for their bravery. Knight wrote that both Enoch Hall and Hamilton Sharpe were in charge of companies of militia. In the course of tracking the Indians through Lowndes, fifteen men commanded by Captain Sharpe formed a battalion with thirty-one men from Thomas County after they discovered Indians in the fork of the Little River and Big Warrior Creek. Following the trail for three miles down the east side of the river, Sharpe and his soldiers encountered about sixty warriors and their families. In the ensuing fight, Captain Sharpe lost one man, Mr. P. Folsom, and one wounded, when he was forced to retreat. Reinforced by the remainder of the battalion, the Lowndes men pursued the Indians for another three miles and found them on a pine ridge, their rear protected by a cypress pond, and in their front a wide, open, boggy meadow. A general engagement commended about 9 o'clock a. m. and after a severe fight for two hours, the Indians were completely routed, with a loss of twenty-two Indians and two Negroes killed, that were seen, and many wounded. Of the militia, Bartow Ferrell of Thomas County and Edwin D. Shanks of Lowndes County were killed and nine wounded.

Norman Campbell, John McDermott, Robert N. Parrish, Pennywell Folsom, Ashley Lawson, Edwin D. Shanks, West Roundtree and others were among those going to the battle from around Troupville.

The successful result of this fight soon became known far and wide, and the Indians never gave the settlers of South Georgia any more trouble. An occasional party was seen, but none of them proved troublesome and the country was soon entirely free of Indians.

Growth of Troupville - Lowndes County

Troupville continued to grow rapidly and soon became a town with stores, residences, mechanic shops and churches. And after a time a court house was built. In a short while the town became the trading center of this section. In the 1840 census Lowndes County was recorded as having 4,475 white people and 1,662 Negroes. Several saw mills, grist mills, rice mills, a good many stores and other industries were recorded. The taxable property of the county was well over two million. By the year 1842 there were about five hundred inhabitants in Troupville. The court house stood in the center of the big square, and the jail, a "grocery" and Smith's stables were on the back of the lot. The court house was a two story building, court being held in the lower floor, while several lawyers had offices in the upper story. There were three hotels and four stores, several mechanic shops and grist mills, and homes for twenty families. Among the storekeepers were Aaron and Moses Smith. William Smith operated a hotel across the street from the courthouse called that he called "Tranquil Hall," and he and his wife were famous for their hospitality. Morgan Swain operated another hotel. Dr. Henry Briggs, an admired physician with a large practice, had a drug store in Troupville. Also among the buildings in Troupville were the separate law offices of Captain Platt, M. B. Bennett and William L. Morgan. Among the residences in the town were those of Dr. Briggs, Dr. Thomas W. Ellis, Joshua W. Griffin, Powhatan Whittle, Moses Smith, Jr., Henry Smith, Isaac DeLyon and Colonel Leonoren DeLyon.

There were two churches in the village at this time--a Baptist and Methodist. Just across the Withlacoochee River stood a Primitive Baptist church. The only newspaper published in this section of the state was edited and printed at Troupville by Colonel Leonoren DeLyon. The paper was called "The South Georgia Watchman." It was ably edited and was a power in this section.

Just across the river from the town was a clear, cool spring, known as Morgan's Spring, as the Morgan family lived nearest to it. The spring was famed far and wide for its purity and refreshing qualities. The stage coach always stopped at Morgan's Spring, which was only a short distance from the public road and near the bridge where the stage crossed in going over the Withlacoochee River. The passengers always wanted to get out and see the noted spring and many of them refreshed themselves with its cool waters.

Lowndes County was represented in the General Assembly by one Representative and one Senator from 1825 until 1845. Lowndes was in the Fifth Senatorial District when the old district system for senators went into force. This lasted until 1853, when the new system went into effect and Lowndes was placed in the Sixth Senatorial District.

Valdosta

Lowndes Countians had long anticipated the coming of a railroad and many had invested in railroad stock believing that their investment assured the construction of a rail line through Mill Town and Troupville. However, when the new Atlantic and Gulf Railroad did extend its right of way from Savannah toward Pensacola, it was on a line which ran four miles south of Troupville. In the Georgia of 1859 location on a rail line was vital to the progress of a town, and Lowndes Countians determined to benefit from the trade that a railroad would bring. Therefore they had the legislature appoint commissioners William H. Goldwire, James Harrell, John B. Stapler and Dennis Worthington to choose a location on the rail line and in the center of the county for the place of county business and to call it Valdosta.

In choosing a name for their county seat, the citizens of Lowndes did not wish to transfer the name of Troupville to the new town; yet, they wished to retain the association with the admired Governor Troup. Several names were suggested, but it remained for Col. Leonoren DeLyon, editor of the "South Georgia Watchman," to have the honor of suggesting the name finally selected. Col. DeLyon suggested that the place be named for one of Governor Troup's plantations, Val de Osta, in Laurens County. The source of the name was a town, valley and district in northwestern Italy. De Lyon modified the spelling to Valdosta. Throughout the years, Valdostans have maintained that the phrase meant Vale of Beauty.

Commissioners Worthington, Stapler, Harrell, and Goldwire procured the property for the new town. On the 12th of December 1859, for $1,250, they purchased 140 acres in the northeast corner of Lot No. 62, District 11, from William Wisenbaker, who did not like the railroad coming so near his farm. Mr. Wisenbaker later moved to the Lake Park section of the county. William Wisenbaker reserved fifteen acres of the parcel of land as a donation to the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad Company for a right of way and for depot purposes. If the Railroad Company did not require the entire fifteen acres, the County Commissioners were to acquire the un-needed property at a cost of $10.00 per acre. William Wisenbaker's home was the only residence when Valdosta became the county seat. The one-story frame house stood on what came to be Wells Street and faced the new Central Avenue. John T. Roberts later purchased the home for his large family, and he added a second floor.

The commissioners set aside one acre, Block No. 15, for the court house, and the town included the land within one mile of Block 15. They made the blocks of the business district one acre in size and divided them into small lots. For the residential area they marked off lots of either two acres with two home sites or four acres with four lots each. On January 19, 1860, the commissioners sold at public auction each lot to the highest bidder. For example, Charles H. M. and William D. Howell bought Lot No. 1, Block 32, for $100. The lot, which was the southeast corner of Crane Avenue and Stephens Street, came into possession of the M. M. Caswell family. In the business district, Dr. William Ashley secured Lot No. 7, Block 9, 45 x 90 for $175. His was the first lot south of the alley on the west side of Patterson Street between Hill and Central avenues. Powhatten B. Whittle and Henrietta Goldwire bought property in the business section, James W. Patterson purchased for $170 Lot No. 20, Block 20, which was the property across from the court house bounded by Patterson, Valley and Ashley streets. Subsequently Patterson sold two acres outside the downtown area to Albert Converse for $100 and ten acres to Richard A. Peeples for $300.

The day the deed was signed by William Wisenbaker granting the railroad six acres of land south of Hill Avenue on which to build the first station, "Uncle Billy" Smith tore off the wing of his hotel in Troupville and moved it to Valdosta, where he operated a small hostelry for several years. In a few weeks Troupville, as a town, was no more. A few families, however, remained in Troupville for some time.

At the time of the June 1860 census approximately 120 whites and 46 blacks lived in Valdosta. James Goldwire served as postmaster, and Rufus Phillips was a lawyer. Richard Peeples was both a lawyer and a farmer and James Patterson also was a lawyer and a planter. Editor L. D. DeLyon emphasized politics in his weekly Watchman, which had a circulation of 1,300. The Pattersons and DeLyon's resided with John May, who was a merchant. R. T. Roberds was one of the nine other merchants in Valdosta, as was George Roberts. Living in town was farmer Albert Converse and family. Other inhabitants of Valdosta were physician John F. Trippe, clerk of superior court John Goldwire, and Daguerrian Wilson Boyd. Armistead Hewitt was a mason, and Thomas Conner was a blacksmith who lived with hotel keeper Nelson Connor. David McCall was also a hotel keeper. Two laborers and twelve carpenters had households in Valdosta. Among them were Christopher Grace, John Woods, William J. Knight and Jacob Ezell whose brother Thomas resided with him.

According to tradition, on July 4, 1860, the first train came over the new road to Valdosta. The event had been announced for weeks in advance and extravagant preparations had been made to make the day a gala occasion. A barbecue dinner had been prepared and crowds gathered from the entire section to take part in the demonstration. As the crowds watched and waited the train came puffing down the track and many a spectator felt his or her knees give way and an almost irresistible desire to run seized them, for this was the first train most of them had ever seen. The engine was called Satilla No. 3, and it was the wonder of the hundreds who had gathered for the occasion. After the Satilla had served its full number of years of usefulness as an engine on the railroad it was purchased by the Wall Mill, which was located about two miles east of Valdosta. It was used to pull a logging train and many a load was hauled by the faithful old engine. For a few years the Satilla worked faithfully when something went wrong inside and the old engine blew up. Report of the explosion was heard for some distance away.

On December 7, 1860, the city of Valdosta was incorporated by the Legislature for the election of mayor, marshal and councilmen. The citizens chose Reuben Thomason Roberds to be the first mayor.

Willis Allen was one of those moving to Valdosta from Troupville and he was appointed the first agent of the railroad, which was first called Savannah, Florida & Western, but later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line. Mr. Allen later built the hotel which was leased to Mr. Charlie Stuart and was known as the Stuart House. This hotel was very popular with the traveling public until it burned in 1885. The hotel was located south of the railroad, between Ashley and Patterson Street.

Valdosta quickly became the largest community in Lowndes County. With the coming of the railroad the town soon grew into prominence as a business and trading center. It was largely an agricultural section and the majority of the farmers brought their cotton and other produce to Valdosta to be marketed. In time Valdosta became the largest inland market for sea island cotton in the world, and it grew in wealth and population very rapidly.

In 1863 Thannie Smith, a step-daughter of Mr. Benjamin Force, refugeed to Valdosta with her family from Rome, Georgia. She later married Emmett Balthorp "Ballie" Wisenbaker and wrote her memoirs of her early impressions of Valdosta in the years 1863-1865:

Valdosta was only three years old in 1863, and many of the men of the town and county had been called into service only a year after the town came into existence, hence the majority of the buildings were of a rather crude type. The court house was a rough unpainted frame building, unfinished on the inside but well lighted with windows, with a door leading into the court room and another into the small office of the clerk. It was situated on the corner of East Central Avenue and Ashley Streets. The building was also used as a school house at that time. Across Patterson Street from the court house, lawyers William Dasher and Richard Peeples had their two offices; the post office was in this block also. On the corner of Ashley and Valley streets, near where the first brick jail was later erected, was the jail constructed of hewed logs. Approximately a dozen one and two-story stores stood on Patterson Street from the court house to the railroad. Mr. S. Smith had the largest on the southwest corner of Patterson and Central. Doctors Briggs and Rambo had their offices and a small drugstore at the alley on the west side of the 100 block, and Tom Griffin operated a general store on the corner of Patterson and Hill. Across Patterson on the east side Wilson Boyd made photographs upstairs over a store; larger frame buildings were on Patterson on the north side of the alley. On Ashley Street there were three store buildings on the east side. Mr. Josh Griffin owned the store on the northeast corner of Ashley and Hill, the other two opened as barrooms just after the war. On the west side were two buildings. In one Mr. Tom Crawford opened a harness store in 1865 and the other was used by the Caldwell and Parsons families as a home. On the north side of Hill Avenue between Patterson and Ashley was another store. The Holton Hotel was around the corner on Central Avenue near McKey Place.

The various church denominations first met in the court house, using the building in rotation, and everybody attended church every Sunday. In 1865 the Baptists build a church on Valley Street in the middle of the block between Ashley and Patterson which was soon destroyed by a storm. In 1868 or 1869 they erected a church on East Central Avenue. Mr. William Goldwire was the pastor. Within a few years the Presbyterians converted a building on Hill Avenue between Lee Street and McKey Place into a meeting house. The Methodists first built on Valley Street behind the present First Methodist Church. Mr. H. W. Sharpe was the pastor.

Among the refugees who came to Lowndes County and Valdosta during those years were the Myddletons from Liberty County, Langs from Camden County, Bessants and DeLyons from Charleston, Ralstons, Dicksons, Charltons, Butlers, Conleys, O'Conners, Mays, Gays, and Jacksons from Savannah, Rileys, Barnwells, Pritchards from Barnwell and Beaufort, South Carolina, Stewarts and Downs from Darien, Archy Smiths from Marietta, the E. V. Johnsons from Kingston, Mitchels, Jarmons, Hicks, Hamiltons and Forces from Rome. The Parsons and Caldwell families came from Atlanta, the Peacocks came from Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Wilsons came from Effingham County.

There were many names now well known in the county and this section of Georgia prominently connected with the growth and development of Valdosta. Some of these had lived in old Troupville in the earlier days and others came in after Valdosta was founded: Dr. William Ashley, Capt. Henry Briggs, Mr. Albert Converse, Sr., Col. Morgan, Capt. Moses Smith, Capt. Patterson, Mr. S. Smith, Messrs. Tom and Josh Griffin, Col. Richard Peeples, Thompson Peeples, Mr. James Goldwire, Dr. Ellis, Mr. Fred Ellis, Tompey Roberts, Col. William Dasher, Col. Baker, Messrs. Henry and William Smith, George Roberts, Dr. John Walker, Dr. Pritchard, Judge R.W. Phillips, Tobe Zipperer, Jordan Tucker, William Proser, Aldine D. Boone, the Parramores, Pendletons, Varnedoes, McKeys, Burtons, Langs, Dashers, Lanes, Rawlstons, Carmichaels and Allens.

Some of the county pioneers were: Christian Herman Dasher, John Wisenbaker, James Wisenbaker, James Burgsteiner, Bird Hightower, Frank Jones, Joseph Harelsteiner, J. A. Dasher, Sr., Andrew Jackson Dasher and William Wisenbaker.

Interesting Facts Connected With Early Valdosta

The first store was owned by Thomas B. Griffin, located at Patterson and Hill Avenue, and Pease & Sauls the second, followed by Mr. Mose Smith, who had kept a store in Troupville. Mr. Albert Converse II was the first white child born in Valdosta. Dr. Thomas W. Ellis had the first drug store on Ashley, near Hill Avenue. Dr. Ellis was the first person buried in Sunset Hill Cemetery. Dr. William Ashley and Dr. Ellis were the first physicians in Valdosta. Mr. R.Y. Lane was the first banker in Valdosta. In 1861 I. H. Tillman and C. H. M. Howell, Lowndes County delegates to Georgia's secession convention, voted with the majority for withdrawal from the Union. In 1863 several families, refugees from the fighting in north Georgia, came to Valdosta on the railroad and settled in the new town. Lt. Reuben T. Roberds, who had been the first mayor of Valdosta, died at Knoxville Tennessee, as an officer of the "Valdosta Guards" in 1863. In 1864 refugees from Liberty County, hard hit by Sherman's march to the sea, organized what came to be the First Presbyterian Church in Valdosta. In 1865 the first regularly assigned full-time Methodist minister arrived in Valdosta. He was the Rev. George Smith, a wounded and partially paralyzed Civil War veteran who sat while preaching. James H. Pierpoint taught music in Valdosta. He was later to compose "Jingle Bells." In 1865 Federal troops of Company "G," 103rd U. S. Colored Troops, were stationed in Valdosta. In 1866 Samuel McWhir Varnedoe founded the county's first real school, the Valdosta Institute. In 1867 the South Georgia Times predecessor to the Valdosta Daily Times started publication. In 1869 fire in the office of the Ordinary, W. H. Dasher, destroyed the records of the county. In 1869/ 1870 two fire companies were established in Valdosta, the Patterson Fire Company (white) and the Osceola Hook and Ladder Company (black). In 1875 a brick court house was built on the Court House Block and was used until the present court house was constructed in 1904-05. The Lowndes Volunteers, a home guard militia group, was organized with uniforms modeled after West Point in 1875. In 1885 a group of Episcopalians bought a lot and erected a chapel on East Central Avenue. The town purchased the private Valdosta Institute, thereby establishing a public school system in 1885. In 1889 The Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad arrived in Valdosta from the north, expanding trade and business greatly. In 1890 the Valdosta Videttes, a voluntary military company commanded by James O. Varnedoe, drilled on the public square between Ashley and Lee Streets. In 1895 The Valdosta City Council authorized the erection of poles, wiring and other equipment by the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Valdosta Telegraph Company. The Valdosta Street Railway Company secured the right to operate street cars on Toombs, Patterson, Ashley, Lee, Troup, Hill Central, Crane and Gordon Streets in 1898. In 1899 the Valdosta Primitive Baptist Church was organized. B. F. Strickland incorporated a cotton mill in August of 1899, opening with 5,000 spindles and 125 looms.


Contributed by: Wayne and Judy Dasher

Sources: First Impressions of Valdosta In 1863, By a Ten Year Old Civil War Refugee From Rome, Georgia by Mary Nathaniel Smith Wisenbaker; Pines and Pioneers by Jane Twitty Shelton; History of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1825-1941 published by General James Jackson Chapter, D. A. R.; A Pictorial History of Lowndes County, Georgia 1825-1975.