The Gospel According to "Saint Jack!"
Bringing History Alive...
The following articles and editorials were written by our very own
Jack Mays, (unless otherwise noted) Charlton County Historian and former Mayor of Folkston. All articles are © 2000 - 2001.
This site was created and is maintained by Tara D. Fields and is part of The Crypt.
If you have any questions or comments you can either address them to:
Jack Mays at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PO Box 777
Folkston, Georgia 31537
Roddenberry Hotel on Folkston's Main Street, 1910 (Photo.)
Homeland's Palmetto Hotel Dates Back to 1908 By Austin Hickox
- Alex S.
McQueen Wrote the History of Charlton County in 1931, While Creating His
Own Chapter As a Popular Attorney
Cantrell's New Restaurant, built by mistake inside the Folkston City
Limits in the 1950s, proved a disastrous blow
Rodgers Building, Housing Folkston Pharmacy, Has Seen Rich History, and
Much More, Under Dr. W. D. Thompson
- McDonald House Hotel Avoids Burning as Did Arnold, Roddenberry, and Central House
Folkston's Two Drugstores Were Headquarters for War News in 1944
- Shannon, Former Prison Guard, Ran Successful "Jot-Em-Down"
- Bank Fights For Survival
- Charlton County Hotels
- Dr. J. W. Buchanan Arrives With Plans for a Recreation Area for Charlton
Folkston's Three Movie Theaters, The Paxton, Ritz, and Topper, Kept
Charlton County Entertained
- Depression-Era Faith Healer Finds Success in Folkston
- Movers and Shakers Meet at Stapleton's Drug Store
- Charlton Gets Its First Bank!
Tie Charlton County Communities Together
Folkston Barbershops of Pete Stroup and O. W. Layton in the 30s and 40s
Had Charm, Character…and Gossip
- Could the "Lost Patrol" have Crashed into the Okefenokee in 1945?
- Businesses Suffer Through Depression
- Depression Hits Charlton County Hard Stanley
Mattox, Sheriff in 1903, Hanged Two, Bringing An End to Outdoor Public
Hangings in Georgia
- Hanging at Traders Hill
- Pratt Mizell Murdered!
- Murder in the Okefenokee!
- Main Street, Folkston, Georgia (Photos)
Swamp Girl, premiered at Folkston's Topper Theater in 1971
WWII, Young Charlton Boys and Girls Had to Grow Up Quickly
Folkston, At the End of World War I, Fought For Progress
- City of Folkston took pride in its Volunteer Fire Department in the 1950s
Railroad Strikers Make Lemonade of Lemons In the 1920s
War Two draftees left from Folkston bus depot, dozens at a time
Trek Creator, Gene Roddenberry, had Charlton Roots
- Did O'Cain Leave Behind Buried Treasure?
- McDonald Pushes for Armistice Day Celebration
Parade A Hit With Local Residents
Fleming Finds Joy in Medicine and Amaryllis Garden
- Homeland, Begun in 1906, Enjoying
- W.H. MIZELL, Charlton
Sheriff From 1910 Until 1932, Did His Job The Hard Way
- Charlie Passieu
created a legacy as Mayor of Folkston from the 1920s until the 1960s
School Bond Issues Passed for a New High School in 1953
Charlton Courthouse was once the place to be on election night
Folkston City Government, in the 1960s, Pushed Through a City Sewer
System, Despite Voters Wishes
Harris, "Playing Politics" to Benefit Education
Works to Get County Seat Moved
- Christmas, 1941, Charlton County Changed to A War Mode!
Home Guard Was Ready to Defend Charlton During WWII
- Kamikaze planes sink the USS Barry with Dr. Jackson aboard!
- Battle of the Bulge May Ruin Christmas, But Won't Destroy the Spirit of Charlton County Natives!
- Bennett Finds Adventure, and Heroism, In War
- Wildes Served With Distinction
- C.L. Passieu Received Distinguished Flying Cross Medal After Heroic Missions Over Japan
Winnie's Wartime Scrapbook: A Mother's Treasure
- Folkston, Ga., almost
became Okefenokee, Ga. In the 1960s
- Stanley Mattox,
Sheriff in 1903, Hanged Two, Bringing An End to Outdoor Public Hangings
Roddenberry Hotel on Folkston's Main Street, 1910
The Roddenberry Hotel as it looked around 1910 on Folkston's Main Street. The hotel burned in 1912 and was located where
H.J. Davis built his general merchandise store. Owned and
operated by Johnny Roddenberry, Sr., the hotel man also rented horses and buggies from a livery stable at the rear of the hotel.
John Roddenberry is on horse at right of photograph.
2. Homeland's Palmetto Hotel Dates
Back To 1908
By Austin Hickox
In Detroit, Michigan, Henry Ford's Model T Fords were rolling off an
assembly line for the first time in history, William Howard Taft was
campaigning for President against William Jennings Bryan, but in the
two-year-old town of Homeland, Georgia, it was a new hotel going up. The
Palmetto Hotel on Homeland's Pennsylvania Avenue was the talk of the
The imposing structure was to have 20 guestrooms, a restaurant, and a
community room. Homeland's own businessmen, W. H. Thompson was building the stately hotel after having it designed by one of his neighbors in the 1906 Colony Company domain. The 1906 Colony Company three years later would be chartered as
the City of Homeland.
While builders were working long days to complete the new Palmetto Hotel,
scores of other townsmen were felling pine trees with axes and crosscut saws, and hauling them off on oxcarts, Homeland's railroad depot stood only blocks away, and a
building was being erected for making cigars, the Homeland Cigar Company. Indeed, Homeland was off and running. Six miles south, a new double-track bridge was opening across the St. Marys
River, replacing a wooden one that had burned.
But the Palmetto Hotel in Homeland was the centerpiece of the new town's
progress. Registering at the new hotel after its opening, was the U. S. Revenue Collector, C. L. Vigal from Macon. His job was to inspect the new cigar manufacturing
plant. Other locals met for meals and conversation in the Palmetto's colorful dining room couples courted around the dining room tables. Names that would become prime
movers of the city in years to follow: M. G. White reportedly met Charlotte Cushing, who would later become Mrs. M. G. White, and raise three sons, John, Harold and
George. One son, Air Force Captain John White would lose his life as the pilot of a transport plane over the Himalayan Mountains in World war Two.
Homeland's Palmetto Hotel rapidly became the focus of a busy community, its
residents working in tandem to move the city forward. Family names like Norwood, White, Armbruster, Waughtel, Willey, Crews, Lloyd, Guinn, Bruschke, and Thompson
were counted on as community leaders, often shouldering a dual role as leaders in community churches.
In Homeland, Tom Wrench shipped carloads of locally grown cabbage to
northern markets by railcars. The town had its own weekly newspaper, The Homeland Enterprise; a locally owned bank was talked, but never materialized. The Homeland
Telephone Company was formed and a brick two-story schoolhouse was built and opened for classes. C. W. Waughtel would be one of the professors in that school.
Another educator, Professor Normal Zarfos, on his lands, planted 500 pecan
trees, soon harvesting large crops of paper shell pecans to shipment from his Pecan Company in Homeland to northern markets.
Charlton County's government, with annual tax income then of only $73,000 dollars, soon realized the booming growth of Homeland with its mostly northern residents. The
county in 1908 ordered road built leading from Folkston into Homeland. The two cities soon began working together to promote the entire area to the rest of the nation.
In the 1930s, the changes in the economy began to affect Homeland and its
landmark Palmetto Hotel. Thompson sold the Palmetto to C. W. Waughtel who turned it into a family home. After the death of Mr. and Mrs. Waughtel, the two daughters,
Geraldine and Beulah Lee, lived there. Geraldine married Rudolph Norwood in 1941, moving into their own home, and Beulah Lee lived in the old hotel there until her death.
For the past decade the once-bustling Palmetto Hotel stood idle. A sign of
what used to be the centerpiece of a booming growing community.
Now the City of Homeland has purchased the historic old hotel, bent on
gradually restoring it to its one-time grandeur. Palm trees that once graced the hotel lawn still stand along Pennsylvania Avenue, and much of the original structure is still
intact. Future plans include the Palmetto Hotel housing artifacts of a much-earlier Homeland, with reminders of its more active years of Pottery factories, railroad depots,
cigar factories, stone churches, a telephone company and weekly newspaper.
The Palmetto Hotel in Homeland will once more take center stage in a
community that again fights for growth, recognition, and a better way of life for its people.
3. Alex S. McQueen Wrote the History of Charlton County
in 1931, While Creating His Own Chapter As a Popular Attorney
Photograph shows the late Alex S. McQueen
as he looked while authoring his History of Charlton County.
McQueen's History of Charlton County! The words have an almost magical ring to them. All who own a copy cherishes that history, written by Folkston lawyer Alex S. McQueen
in the early 1930s. It has become a collector's item.
McQueen wrote the history during the lean depression years, publishing it in 1932 after the Georgia Legislature asked each Georgia county to publish its history. McQueen was
well qualified for the task, by training and background. His father, Phillip Alexander McQueen edited a weekly newspaper in Toombs County and served several terms as School Superintendent. Alex S. McQueen
graduated Valedictorian from Vidalia College Institute, then a junior college, in the class of 1910. He was only 20 years of age.
Later he attended the University of Georgia, and in World War One served as Battery Clerk of Battery B, 26th Artillery Corp.,
moving to Folkston after his discharge from service.
From that point on, until his death in 1960, at age 70, Colonel McQueen, as he became known, created a legend with his law practice and public service, including
authoring The History of Charlton County in the 1930s, the first history ever of the county, at age 43.
McQueen set up a law office in Folkston, early moving it into the Arnold Hotel Building on the town's West Main Street, a building he would later buy. It was in that office that
he began learning for himself the early history of the county that had its beginning in 1854.
McQueen took easily to pioneers of the county, hunting and fishing with them, all the while getting them to talk of the early days of the county. Soon he was named by a
Charlton County Grand Jury as Official Charlton County Historian. He had learned well from the early pioneers.
McQueen had his own agenda. A recognized authority on Constitutional Law, he refused to sit idly by while, what he thought, was a violation of The Constitution took place.
With a short temper fuse, McQueen quickly challenged those whom he thought had taken the document at less than face value.
This trait caused McQueen to begin a second Charlton County newspaper, The Folkston Progress, when Tom Wrench, owner of the older Charlton County Herald, ran
afoul of McQueen's agenda with his newspaper.
The two editors fought their personal battles on the front pages of their respective newspapers. An editorial by Wrench would evoke an angry response on the front
pages of McQueen's paper. The people of the county enjoyed the newspaper feud and looked forward each week to the two newspapers.
The two editors continued to fire away editorially at each other for months, until, legend has it, McQueen had had enough. He was white with rage, and allegedly telephoned
Wrench that he was coming to do him bodily harm. Wrench, also, was not one to walk away from a fight. He welcomed McQueen's challenge. Cooler heads prevailed when the two met at a small Standard Oil Service Station near the Charlton County
Courthouse. The men their shoved Wrench into the Men's Room, and took McQueen's weapon away from him. The two later cooled off, but the editorial war continued.
Both men mellowed over the ensuing months, Wrench selling his newspaper and McQueen moving his to Camden County. The Two-Newspaper War is still spoken of by
McQueen, in the midst of his busy law practice, found time to author several books; The Georgia Justice Handbook (1915), The History of The Okefenokee Swamp (1926),
Clubfoot of the Okefenokee, (1928), and The History of Charlton County (1931). His early descriptions of the early customs of the area are without equal.
McQueen was named Solicitor of the County Court of Charlton County from its creation in 1925 until it was abolished. He served as County Attorney for Charlton
County and as City Attorney for The City of Folkston for four decades, and as County Ordinary (now Probate Judge) for three terms from 1937 through 1948. During the war
years of 1942 through 1945, McQueen, as County Ordinary, performed thousands of marriage ceremonies for sailors from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and their girl
friends who came to Folkston for a hasty wedding before shipping out from the Naval Station. The couples usually came into Folkston by Greyhound Bus. McQueen would
issue the Marriage Licenses, and many times the couple chose to be married by a minister. McQueen would send them to local ministers for the marriage ceremony.
In the 1930s, McQueen lost a leg to surgery, but continued to get around with the aid of crutches. His Ford Automobile was specially fitted with a hand-controlled
accelerator so that he could perform the function with his hands.
When McQueen's son, William A. (Bill) McQueen returned home from combat service in World War Two, the father-son legal team continued as McQueen & McQueen until
the elder McQueen's retirement. Bill McQueen ran the law firm alone until his death of a heart attack while in his 40s. Bill McQueen picked up where his father left off, serving
as Charlton County and City of Folkston attorney until his death, in the 1960s, creating a second McQueen legend of his own as he became one of the area's most successful attorneys.
The years of Alex S. and William A. McQueen wrote a colorful history chapter
of their own in the History of Charlton County.
|4. Bud Cantrell's New Restaurant, built by
mistake inside the Folkston City Limits in the 1950s, proved a
Photograph shows Bud Cantrell's Restaurant built in the 1950s. Cantrell thought he was building the restaurant outside the Folkston City Limits to allow serving beer and
wine with his restaurant meals. Months after opening, Cantrell was notified that he had built his new building inside the City Limits and had to stop serving beer and wine in the restaurant.
By Jack Mays
In the 1950s, no places of business could serve beer. One who operated Chickasaw Gardens on Old U. S. Highway 1 south of Folkston saw his business dry up when the
highway was rerouted two blocks west of his Beer and Wine Tavern. I. B. Bud Cantrell, Sr. decided to build a new tavern and restaurant on the new route, but just outside of
the Folkston City Limits where he could serve Beer and Wine as he had in his Chickasaw Gardens, known locally as "Buds".
Cantrell bought land on the West Side of the new highway for his new restaurant. It would be located just south of the Folkston City Limits line, marked by a sign on the
highway, so that he could secure a county beer and wine license and serve the beverages at his new restaurant.
Cantrell, closing down his Chickasaw Gardens tavern, built a new, fine restaurant just two blocks east and named it "Buds." He rented the old building to Wesley Logan for a
television repair business.
Business began with a bang at Cantrell's new restaurant. Those dining could have a beer or a glass of wine with their meals, something that was not possible in Folkston
restaurants. The business thrived for months. Then disaster struck. Cantrell was informed that he had built his new restaurant inside the Folkston City Limits. He was
told that the city limits signs were mistakenly erected just north of his new location. Buds Restaurant was inside the Folkston City Limits and he must stop serving beer
and wine to his customers. It was a terrible financial blow to the amiable Cantrell, but he obediently chose to abide by the prohibition of beer sales by the City of Folkston.
It was considered useless to try to get a license to sell beer from the Folkston City Government. The town had stopped allowing beer sales for on-premise consumption in the 1930s.
Cantrell's business in the new restaurant dropped drastically as several operators tried to make a go of it without selling beer and wine. While beer was served there during
the early months, the restaurant enjoyed a booming business. Tourist staying in the town's many motels learned they could get beer and wine with their meals, and
crowded onto the restaurant's parking lot. When the restaurant stopped selling the alcoholic beverages it was like cutting the lights off. Business dropped drastically.
A number of operators tried to operate the business successfully, including SouthSide Drive-in that also ran a poolroom adjacent to the restaurant. Not enough business
developed, forcing the restaurant to close. It was sold and remodeled into an automobile tire and service outlet.
Cantrell suffered considerable financial losses because of his mistaken belief that the property was outside the Folkston City Limits. Surveys by the City confirmed that
indeed, Cantrell had built his new restaurant just feet inside the City Limits.
Cantrell then turned to agriculture, growing hay and watermelons for sale. The new venture proved profitable for Cantrell and he continued his new vocation until his death.
Cantrell had begun operating his Chickasaw Gardens in the late 1930s, located near the Hercules Camp south of Folkston. During those years, including the war years of
World War Two, the tavern was a popular hangout for servicemen home on leave from battlefields throughout the world. It was a common sight to see a dozen or more locals
in the tavern, swapping war tales with their hometown comrades also home on leave. Cantrell proved the perfect host, table-hopping from one table to another, talking with
the servicemen about their experiences. Bud Cantrell's Chickasaw Gardens on U. S. 1 south of Folkston was a favorite watering hole for the servicemen and their girl friends.
The change of U. S. 1 south of Folkston, to merge with a new highway, U. S. 301, two blocks to the west, wrote an end of Cantrell's Chickasaw Gardens. A mistake as to
where the Folkston City Limits extended added insult to injury.
Cantrell was a popular businessman, always taking part in efforts to move his community forward. Fate dealt him a bad hand at both his restaurants.
The Rodgers Building, Housing Folkston Pharmacy, Has Seen Rich History,
and Much More, Under Dr. W. D. Thompson
Photo is of The Rodgers Building on Folkston's Main Street. Built by J. W. Rodgers at the turn of the 20th Century, it houses Folkston Pharmacy. The Rodgers Building has had a rich, colorful past under previous operators.
Anchoring the corner of Folkston's Main Street and First Street is the Rodgers
Building. J. W. Rodgers, a prosperous naval stores operator built the building just after the turn of the 20th Century. Rodgers insisted the building be built of unique
diamond-shaped concrete blocks. A special form was built to mold the blocks. Rodgers was that kind of a man. He wanted to be different, and he was. Early settlers
tell of some of the antics in which Rodgers became involved. Once, he went to Fernandina Beach and bought a brand new automobile. When he got it to Folkston, it
refused to crank. Rodgers, enraged, went inside his place of business, got a pistol and fired two shots through the radiator of his new automobile.
Rodgers was a benevolent man, especially when he got deep into his cups. The tale is told of his catching a train to Jacksonville to buy Christmas gifts for his family. On the
return trip to Folkston, Rodgers is said to have had "one too many" and his benevolent side began to break out. He walked up and down inside the railroad passenger cars,
giving away the toys and gifts he had bought for his family. Another trip to Jacksonville was worked in before Christmas. That time his family went with him to make sure the gifts arrived home safely.
Rodgers had run a livery stable just to the rear of his new building; where the Folkston City Hall sits today. He is reported to have amassed great sums of money from his
naval stores operations and used much of that money to buy land, much near Boulogne, Florida.
Rodgers' building became the cornerstone of business in Folkston. In the 1920's Eustace Jones and his wife operated the ground floor as the Highway Café, the
daughter of Charlton County Judge J. J. Stokes. A young daughter helped with the business, Lorena Jones. She became a Warner Brothers Starlet, went to Hollywood,
and eventually married one of Hollywood's most powerful studio owners, Louis B. Mayer, one of the founders of MGM Studios.
That business, the Highway Café, was just one of a long string of businesses housed in Rodgers' building. Pete Stroup had his barber shop there through the years of the
Great Depression. W. E. Gibson operated a General Merchandise Store from the corner quarters in the 1940s. Then Dr. William D. Thompson bought the building and
decided to open his Folkston Pharmacy in the building. He had earlier operated his drug store just two doors down from the corner location. Stroup moved his barbershop
and Thompson enlarged his drug store business, building a soda fountain with stools for his customers.
Dr. Bill Thompson, pictured, operated his
Folkston Pharmacy there for decades. His term as Folkston Mayor moved the town forward, but only in the face of criticism of Thompson. Marion Wainright has operated Folkston Pharmacy since buying the business at Thompson's retirement.
Dr. Thompson was the son of the Coffee County School Superintendent. He and his brother, Jack, joined in operating the drug store. It became one
of the most popular places in town for school youngsters who filed in after school to share a soda and relax from the day's studies. Many young students worked at Thompson's soda fountain.
In December of 1941, Thompson's Folkston Pharmacy became one of the places in town to get the latest war news as World War Two burst upon the world scene.
Thompson brought his Hallicrafter short wave to the drug store, hooked it to a long wire antenna, and tuned in largely to the BBC to get reports of the conflict in Europe and
the almost daily bombings of London by Nazi German bombers. Thompson bore a striking resemblance to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Many of the town's youngsters referred to him, out of his earshot of course, as Churchill. Thompson knew
this, of course, but was rather flattered. Churchill was one of Thompson's heroes. His wife and daughters helped the druggist in the business.
Thompson served Folkston as Mayor during the time of the city's first water system. He had to endure the daily criticism of those who thought a city water system was
unnecessary. Nevertheless, in the 1920s, Thompson and the Folkston City Council bought a used water tower from a Florida sawmill, moved it to Folkston and had it
erected. That water tower is still in use today, overshadowing the Folkston City Hall. Thompson was a strong-willed man. When he set his mind to something, it stayed set. The flak from the town's first water system was amusing to Thompson.
On occasions, the animosity toward Thompson became humorous. While Thompson was Folkston's mayor, the town's only policeman secretly resented the strong-willed
mayor. When Thompson opened his drug store in the mornings, often there was evidence that someone had relieved himself on Thompson's front door entrance. The
pranks continued until finally, two men were hired to climb atop the Citizens Bank at night, which was just across the street, and find out who was doing the dirty tricks.
The two spotted the town's policeman relieving himself at Thompson's front door. The two watched a second night: same thing happened. Thompson and his Police Chief
had a man-to-man talk in Thompson's drugstore. The incident never reoccurred, but Thompson leaned that his police chief had opposed the town's new water tower and system.
Dr. Thompson, aging, retired from the pharmacy business in the early 1960s.
His trademark, a Studebaker Commander automobile, drove away from the side
of the drugstore where he had parked so often.
Marion Wainwright bought the building and business, continuing to use the name Folkston Pharmacy in the busy drugstore. If the walls of that drugstore could talk, you
would hear of full meals served in the Highway Café for 25 cents by the Jones family, or the anxious radio reports during World War Two, or perhaps conversations inside Pete Stroup's barber shop on the west end of the building.
Dr. Bill Thompson and his family became legends in their time. The old
Rodgers Building must surely become listed on the rolls of historic
buildings. Its history is rich.
|6. McDonald House Hotel Avoids Burning as Did Arnold, Roddenberry, and Central House
Photo shows B. G. McDonald's McDonald House Hotel on Folkston's Courthouse Street, now Main Street as it looked before the 1920s. McDonald's hotel was the sole
survivor of Folkston's early hotels. The Arnold burned twice and the Central House and Roddenberry Hotel fell victim to fires.
It was 1914. America was still a neutral nation. World War One was a couple of years away. B. G. McDonald announced he was building a third hotel near the Folkston
railroad depot. The Central House and Arnold stood imposingly across the street from McDonald's lot. Another hotel, the Roddenberry had been destroyed by fire that had, at
one time or another, threatened most of the homes and commercial buildings in Folkston.
McDonald decided to build his hotel of white pressed brick, a radical innovation at the time. The other hotels were either red brick or wooden structures.
At the same time, the town of Homeland boasted of its Palmetto Hotel, a giant structure in the center of the city. All the successful hotels in those days were built
near railroad depots, although Homeland's Palmetto Hotel was located a couple of blocks from that town's railroad depot.
Tom Wrench, the colorful editor of the Charlton County Herald called McDonald's announcement "a monument to a booster's faith in Folkston. No one quarreled with
McDonald was born in Ware County but settled in Folkston in 1884. In 1895, the same year Folkston was chartered, he married Lucy Bernice Lang, daughter of a prominent
pioneer family of Charlton County, the Felder Langs. McDonald was named the first Mayor of Folkston in legislation that created the city. In addition, he was known throughout South Georgia as one of the state's most astute businessmen.
The three hotels became the hub of activity in Folkston, but it was McDonald's hotel that set the fashion standards for women of the town. A ground floor department store
regularly imported ladies fashion experts to alert the ladies of the town of the latest fashions. Ben McDonald's store stocked the most modern shoes, dresses, and ladies hats.
The Central House Hotel fell victim to a fire that destroyed the two-story frame hotel, and Ben Scott's Arnold Hotel twice was destroyed by fire. The second fire saw Scott
only rebuild the ground floor.
Ben McDonald's hotel escaped the fires, standing stately and majestically through those years of the fires.
In 1954, Charlton County was to celebrate its 100th birthday with a Centennial celebration. McDonald's daughter, then Martha Grace Bragg opened her father's
long-closed store to the public so they could buy high-button shoes, 1920-era ladies hats, bustles, and most other merchandise fashionable at the turn of the century. The
show window in McDonald's ground floor store displayed clothing popular in the early 1920s. The inventory was quickly disposed of, to appear on Folkston's Main Street
during the Centennial celebration adorning the bodies of some of the county's ladies.
The fact that the McDonald Hotel escaped fire damage is largely attributed to the close supervision of McDonald of his fireplaces and his cigarette smoking hotel guests. He
refused to see his hotel go up in flames, as did the others.
That hotel still stands today. The railroad depot moved two blocks north in the 1930s, but when the railroad closed the depot, the City of Folkston moved it back south onto
its original lot and restored it for public use.
McDonald was one of the founders of the Citizens Bank in 1912, a county judge and Charlton County Commissioner as well as Folkston Mayor and Alderman.
His hotel and his faith in the growth of the City of Folkston and Charlton County never diminished. Until his death, he continued to promote his adopted hometown: a town
that he had helped incorporate and a town where he served as its first Mayor.
7. Folkston's Two
Drugstores Were Headquarters for War News in 1944
Photograph shows one of Folkston's World War Two drugstores, Stapleton Pharmacy. Inside Stapleton's Rexall Drugstore, on Folkston's Main Street, local men listened to
the news of World War Two, and celebrated the Allies Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Dr. W. D. Thompson operated his Folkston Pharmacy across the street, also a headquarters for news of World War Two.
It was June 6, 1944. On the shores of Normandy in France, Allied troops were storming ashore. D-Day had begun. The resistance from Nazi forces was fierce as the
amphibious craft unloaded their fighting men on the sand beaches, beaches that soon turned red with blood from American and Allied forces.
On Folkston's Main Street, the town's mayor, Charlie Passieu was more excited than anyone. With a wide smile on his leathery face, his necktie hung loosely around his
neck; he stopped in every store along the street, shouting as loud as his voice would let him "Our boys have landed". He repeated it over and over again as he made his rounds into every store, his smile getting broader with each stop.
Stapleton's Rexall Drug Store, owned by E. B. Stapleton whose son, Junior, was in service, was perhaps the most popular stop for the townspeople to get the latest war
news. A crowd soon gathered around the marble top soda fountain, swapping tales of what they had heard on the radio.
Mayor Charlie Passieu was unusually proud. His son, Louie was Flight Officer on a B-29 bomber, The Raidin' Maiden, flying out of China, Burma and India in the Pacific
fighting. Most of the men of Charlton County, by this time, were in the Armed Forces. That year there were no males in the High School Graduating Class. Most had volunteered for service when they turned 17.
Across Folkston's Main Street from Stapleton's drug store, pharmacist W. D. Thompson leaned closer to his short wave Hallicrafter radio. His daughter, Willette,
was an army nurse involved in the war zones. Thompson was listening to the whines and whistles of the fading newscasts coming from Europe by short wave, but with
much the same news as on American radio stations. Thompson in his drugstore often listened to Tokyo Rose, a Japanese radio propagandist, trying to torment America's
fighting men. A half-dozen men crowded around Thompson with his Churchill-like features, straining to hear more war news right from the front on the strange looking short wave radio.
On the beaches at Normandy, among the thousands of American Troops were men from Charlton County. Some died, while others were injured in the fighting as the
Allies fought for a foothold in Fortress Europe. Several returned home after the war with one leg amputated, or with other crippling injuries.
Little else got done in Folkston that June 6th in 1944. All of Charlton County buzzed
with the excitement in France. White-haired Folkston lawyer Colonel A. S. McQueen entered Stapleton's Drug Store on his crutches. His son, Bill, was in the military
overseas. A smile crept across the elder McQueen's wrinkled face as he heard the news of the Normandy invasion. McQueen, the Charlton County Historian, who had
lost a leg to amputation, and couldn't stand long at a time, sat down in one of the wrought iron chairs in the drugstore beneath a whirling four-bladed ceiling fan. The
scene in Stapleton's Drug Store was one of jubilation tempered with worries over whether the landing would be successful or repulsed by Nazi Germany's defenders.
The radio soon aired the voice of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, warning the nation of the tenuous invasion. President Franklin Roosevelt
soon followed on the radio newscast, in his soft tones, leading the nation in a prayer for the success of the invasion and the safety of American troops. Just the day before,
on June 5, 1944, Roosevelt had taken to the airways to announce the capture and death of Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini at the hands of Italian partisans. At that very moment, 175,000 young American soldiers were about to embark on Operation
Overlord, the invasion of Europe. A million more would follow.
Soon word spread throughout the nation that the Americans had advanced inland. Because of the American intervention, the chances of the invasion failing diminished
considerably. The men in the two Folkston drug stores did nothing else all through that day. America and its allies on the shore in France took precedent over all other
activity. The men in those drug stores felt that if they left the radio news reports, it would be seen as "deserting their troops." It was well into the evening of June 6, 1944
before the men began leaving the Folkston drug stores and returning to their homes. The invasion was apparently going to succeed.
The people of Charlton County had tired of the war. It had been going on then for nearly three years. Rationing, wartime inconveniences, and fears for the lives of
Charlton County servicemen and women had consumed the people. The Charlton County Draft Board, The War Rationing Board, and day and night jobs in shipyards in
Brunswick and Jacksonville had almost become a way of life. Troop trains with their soldiers, sailors, tanks and guns rumbled through Folkston day and night. Local lady
volunteers met troop trains that stopped for water for its locomotives, handing out sandwiches and coffee to the eager troops.
On the roof of the Charlton County courthouse, volunteer aircraft spotters phoned in reports of every plane flying over Folkston. Home Guard units guarded the railroad
bridges across the Saint Marys River near Boulogne, and high school students conducted endless scrap drives, scouring the county for old tires and metal to be used in the war effort.
On that June 6, 1944, the men in Folkston's two drug stores could see an end to what seemed like an eternity of worry and sacrifice. At that time, numbers of Charlton
County servicemen had already given their lives on battlefields around the world. More would lose their lives, while others would be maimed, in the months that lay ahead.
In those two Folkston Main Street drugstores on that 6th day of June 1944, the strain of the war showed on the faces of those standing at the counters. The invasion of
Europe by Allied forces was to signal the beginning of the end to World War Two. The men there knew this, and rejoiced, although many more Charlton County boys would
lose their lives and limbs before the final victory of Japan and VJ Day in 1945.
Perhaps no other time in history has so consumed the men and women in Charlton County as did that June 6th day fifty six years ago. D. Day, when Allied forces began
their onslaught onto Fortress Europe to liberate the thousands held in enemy prison camps, and the millions more who had been under the Nazi flag since the fall of
France. Churches opened their doors as those on the home front gathered there to pray and to ask protection of their loved ones.
Those two Folkston drugstores provided men of the county with a place to rejoice at Allies victories and a place to seek comfort when word was received of the death or
injury of "One of our boys."
8. J.R. Shannon, one-time convict guard, opened his jot-em-down
store on the town's Main Street in the 1940s. He offered cat-protected white
Photo above shows J. R. Shannon's jot-em-down store on Folkston's Main Street in the late 1940s. Its at left of Topper Theater.
Charlton Convict Camp is in the background as three Indian football cheerleaders root on their Folkston Indians in their second year. Left to right, Lanier Gibson (Gross),
Malette Brown (Clark), Betty Raulerson (Stover), and Jean Dixon. Mrs. Gross and Mrs. Stover are now deceased.
Old landmarks disappear, leaving future generations to ask; "do you remember?"
All through the 20th Century, buildings were erected, only to be torn down, renovated, burned or allowed to rot. Few photographs exist today of those early landmarks.
Missing are photographs of the Paxton Theater, The Ritz Theater, railroad depots at Homeland, Winokur, Saint George, Uptonville, and many more.
Soon after the end of World War Two, Georgia built a convict camp, as it was then called, on the Saint George Highway just south of Folkston. Barracks, dining rooms,
and conference rooms were built of wood and local employees were hired to run the camp. The Prison Warden was W. H. McHan brought in from another state prison camp.
McHan was an outgoing man, making friends in Folkston's business community with ease. He regularly invited the Folkston Lions Club to meet in the prison dining room,
with the prison furnishing the meal. The Lions looked forward in glee to these frequent events, savoring some of the juiciest steaks that could be bought.
McHan had his inmates work for the county and city governments, cleaning the towns, erecting lighting poles on the school football field, and generally making the prison
invaluable to the community. Likewise, when McHan would need a favor, the business and government leaders granted his request without a murmur.
McHan, an accomplished leader, soon became needed to take charge of Georgia's toughest prison camp, at Buford. That prison housed some of Georgia's most
troublesome prisoners. McHan needed only a few months there to bring the inmates under control, drawing praise from state officials.
The convict camp at Folkston soon was phased out. It was located where today
the Charlton County Maintenance Shops are located. The county had made the
land available to the state without cost to entice the prison camp into the
county. When it closed, the county took back over the facility, together
with the improvements that had been erected there.
But, when the camp closed, most employees moved elsewhere with the prison system. Some, however, stayed in the Folkston area and blended into the community.
Such was a man that had been a convict guard; J. R. Shannon, determined to go into business in Folkston.
Shannon opened, what was to become known as "Shannon's Jot-em-down Store." It was located on Folkston's Main Street, adjoining the Topper Theater in a rather
dilapidated building with a tarpaper front.
Inside Shannon's store, the former convict guard tended the store all-alone. Large piles of white bacon lay on the floor, and on top of the pile slept Shannon's pet cat.
Shannon said the cat kept the mice away. No one ever reported an illness due to the cat's sleeping place.
The wiry Shannon kept very little books for his credit customers. When someone bought something, one of the first questions asked by Shannon was "Can I put that
down on the books?" Most times the answer was "yes". Shannon would then write the amount of purchase on a brown paper sack, which included records of all his other credit customers for the month.
Shannon didn't lose as much money as one might think. His collection methods were ruthless, reportedly threatening to "bash in your head" when customers became
delinquent. Most of his problem customers knew he would do just that, his reputation as a tough convict guard had preceded him into the business community.
Shannon's grocery business thrived, so much so that he built a new, larger store in Folkston. Most of Shannon's customers followed him into his new quarters. Soon the
former convict guard-turned merchant tired of the grocery business and sold out. His antics, however, continued to be a topic of conversation when talk centers on the
one-time businesses along Folkston's Main Street. The building, in which Shannon opened his first store, had formerly been a funeral parlor, operated by Charlie F.
Adkins during the early post-war years. Before that, it was operated as a restaurant, and at one time it housed a meat market. None of the predecessors however, allowed their pet cat to sleep on the top layer of salt pork bellies.
The convict camp, where Shannon worked before turning merchant, adjoined the football field of early Charlton County football players. Prisoners would sit atop the
camp's water tower to get a better look at the high school football games, all played then in the afternoons since the field had no lights.
That convict camp, along with the jot-em-down store operated by J. R. Shannon has vanished from the town's landmarks. Few photographs exist of either, but there are
those who recall those days a half-century ago, of the McHans, the Shannons, and others who worked at the prison camp and traded later at J. R. Shannon's jot-em-down store.
9. In 1912, The Bank of Folkston and The Citizens Bank fought for survival.
Photo shows the Bank of Folkston
as it looked in 1908. Standing at left is the bank's cashier, Frank Mills, talking with customer Clyde Wainwright. The building was built in 1906 and was Folkston's first commercial masonry building.
Frank Mills stood in the front door of Folkston's first bank, The Bank of Folkston. Mills was the cashier of the new bank organized in Liberty County by the Liberty County Banking
Company, of Ludowici, Georgia.
Talking with Mills was a bank customer, Clyde Wainwright. The population of Folkston at that time was just over 350. It was 1908 and the new bank was two years old.
The two stood on narrow boards at the front door of the bank that formed sidewalks in the sands of Folkston's Main Street. That year, 1908, The 1906 Colony Company
was beginning to move forward in Homeland. The Charlton County Commissioners had voted to open a road to "The Colony" leading from Folkston into the booming new community, which is today the City of Homeland.
It was a busy year for all of Charlton County. In St. George the 1904 Colony Company was enjoying unexpected real estate sales on lands acquired from the railroads.
A handful of well-heeled Ludowici businessmen decided Charlton County would be a good place to open a new bank, to go along with their bank in Ludowici. Prospects
for growth in Folkston never seemed brighter.
The group bought land on Folkston's Main Street and began to build their bank. It was 1906. In April of that year San Francisco endured its greatest earthquake, killing
thousands. The Bank of Folkston would be built of brick. Only one other commercial building in the town was masonry, the Charlton County Courthouse built in 1901 and 1902. The new bank would include a vault of masonry and steel.
Talk was circulating in the town in 1908 that a Pennsylvania lumberman was looking toward buying thousands of acres of the Okefenokee Swamp to cut and sell the
giant cypress trees. Hebard made the purchase from the State of Georgia in 1910.
The Bank of Folkston operated successfully for its first five years. Then some of the bank customers began to talk of having their own "home owned" bank. Ben Scott,
Ben McDonald and William Mizell, Sr. took the lead.
Scott was building his new Arnold Hotel across the railroad tracks from the Bank of Folkston. The three decided to organize a new bank, The Citizens Bank, with its first
offices on the ground floor of Scott's Arnold Hotel. In 1911 the organizers met at the hotel and decided to seek a bank charter. It was granted quickly and in 1912 the
Citizens Bank opened in Scott's Arnold Hotel. Scott became the Citizens Bank's first president. Donald Pearce of Whigham, Georgia was brought on board as the Citizens Bank's bookkeeper, just two months after the bank opened.
Customers at the Bank of Folkston began to withdraw their funds and transfer them to the new bank. The withdrawals crippled the Bank of Folkston. It was left with
scores of unpaid loans to less affluent residents, but the big money moved to the Citizens Bank.
In 1913, just a year after the Citizens Bank opened, the Bank of Folkston went into the hand of the receivers, unable to pay its bills. L. E. Mallard was named Receiver;
to collect any money paid into the Bank of Folkston after it closed its doors. Very little was paid.
In 1911 the Bank of Folkston had deposits of $30,000 dollars and loans of $46,000 dollars. In February of 1912 its deposits had dropped to less than $16,000 dollars
with loans of $24,000 dollars.
In just two months after opening, the new Citizens Bank counted deposits of $28,000 dollars and loans of $10,000 dollars. The new bank had siphoned off the
best business of the Bank of Folkston.
In 1926, the Citizens Bank moved into its new bank building on the corner of Folkston's First Street and Main Street. The Citizens Bank was sold by the Mizell
interest to Jack Lester of Saint Simons Island in the late 1960s. Lester built a new bank on Love Street and U. S. 1, where it stands today as the Southeastern Bank.
But for Folkston and Charlton County, the opening of the town's first bank, The Bank of Folkston, had marked the coming of a new day for the county's economy. It
opened in grand style in the town's first commercial masonry building. Some of those helping to cut the ribbon opening the Bank of Folkston in 1906 were among those organizing its competition just five years later.
The building vacated by the Bank of Folkston became a landmark on Folkston's Main Street. Over the years it has housed the offices of Dr. A. D. Williams, Dr.
William J. Schneider, the timber company offices of Theo Dinkins, and several other businesses. Upstairs has been used as a telephone office occupied by a telephone
operator who plugged cords into a simple switchboard to connect callers. Many of those operators lived in the same quarters with the switchboard. Today that first
telephones switchboard is in the Charlton County Archives Building. Folkston's Norris Johnson still has copies of deposit slips of his grandfather, Judge J. H.
Johnson who banked at the Bank of Folkston during its formative years. That's about all that's left of Folkston's first bank.
10. Charlton County Hotels
Just before the turn of the century, around 1898, Folkston had become a bustling center of commerce. Passenger trains loaded and unloaded passengers dozens of times each day at
the busy Folkston ACL Railroad Depot. H. C. Page was the genial station agent after the turn of the century, beginning his job there in 1904.
But, it was Folkston's array of top-flight hotels that ringed the railroad depot that made Folkston such a popular stopping point. Johnny Roddenberry owned and operated his
Roddenberry Hotel, located then just east of where the Folkston post office is today. Roddenberry also ran a livery stable nearby and when court officials arrived on the trains, he rented the horses and buggies to them so they could get to
the county courthouse at Traders Hill for court sessions.
Lois Barefoot Mays, in her Settlers of the Okefenokee, wrote. "The court officials usually filled the hotel, and many yarns were spun after the evening meals when
these old friends gathered to assess the strengths of the plaintiff or defendant in the trial that was in progress."
Roddenberry's hotel was one of the busiest places in town as it sat majestically on Folkston's main street. The pages of the Charlton County Herald usually contained
an advertisement placed by Johnny Roddenberry for his hotel and livery stable.
More and more trains began to come through Folkston just after the turn of the century. The Jesup Short Line was opened by the railroads, adding to the route from Waycross.
With the increase in train travel came more hotels for Folkston. Mrs. Walker from Waycross opened the Central House Hotel where today are the offices of South Georgia Timber
Company. Ben Scott built the mammoth Arnold Hotel that today contains the offices of attorneys John Adams and Kelly Brooks.
Then came Ben McDonald's hotel, which he named the McDonald House. It stills stands today just west of the restored railroad depot. The McDonald House is the only hotel that
escaped destruction by fires. The Central House, Roddenberry Hotel, and Arnold Hotel were destroyed by fire. The Arnold Hotel burned twice.
After the Roddenberry hotel burned, H. J. Davis bought the land and built his general store, around 1912. The building today contains a dance studio and is next door to the
Folkston post office.
The hey-days of those Folkston hotels contain some of the most memorable history of Charlton County. When the Arnold opened, its dining room was the center for the county's
cultural events. Some events were not so filled with culture. Watermelon seed spitting contests were held there, when adults and children alike tried to see who could spit a watermelon seed the furthest. The Citizens Bank opened its first
office in the Arnold Hotel in 1912, and Ben Scott's general store occupied part of the ground floor.
Ben McDonald's hotel was perhaps the most upscale of the hotels. His ground floor general store regularly brought in fashion designers that enthralled the women of the town with
the latest fashions in hats and clothing.
Mrs. Walker, the mother of the late Mrs. O. C. Mizell, operated the Central House for a time. The mother and two daughters called the hotel home for a number of years.
The Central House had a number of long-term boarders, including Doctor Albert Fleming. The Arnold Hotel, for years, was the Folkston home of John S. Tyson, Sr., and his family.
In those late days of the 1800s and early days of the 1900s, hotels were not as upscale as they are today. Most were just large two-story homes with a single bath for all the
St. George had a number of hotels along its main street, Florida Avenue. One of the most popular was the Smith House, owned and operated by the mother of Mrs. Pete Stroup.
In Homeland, the impressive Palmetto Hotel was built and operated by C. W. Waughtel, that city's founder. Much of that hotel still stands today on Pennsylvania Avenue amid the
towering palm trees from which it got its name.
In Winokur, a replica of Ben McDonald's Folkston hotel sat beside the railroad tracks. N. G. Wade built it for the offices of his crosstie operations. It housed a general store on
the ground floor.
With the coming of highway transportation, and with railroads cutting back on passenger operations, those old hotels began to vanish. Tourist Courts and Motels were built beside
the highways as travelers began to abandon rail travel for highway travel. Those motels will never create the colorful legends of the railroad hotels.
The hotels of Folkston, Homeland, Winokur and St. George are interesting chapters in the history of Charlton County.
11. Dr. Buchanan Created Popular Recreation Area for Charlton
"Dixie Lake"! The name has a rhythmical ring to it. Now it's just a residential settlement west of downtown Folkston. Few know the money and heartaches that
went into the projects of an Ohio doctor who first arrived in Folkston on September 1, 1916. Doctor J. W. Buchanan would begin an eighteen-year experience in Folkston,
Homeland, and Charlton County that would end with his death on November 9, 1934.
Dr. Buchanan boarded a southbound passenger train in his hometown of Wooster, Ohio heading to Folkston, Georgia, a town he had heard of from some of the fifty-six
families from Ohio that had settled in nearby Nahunta, Georgia. They had urged Buchanan to follow them south to the "land of opportunity."
Buchanan was only 56 years old when he arrived in Folkston. He had practiced medicine in Wooster for 30 years, accumulating a substantial fortune, but more
importantly, his favorite aunt was Mrs. Jacob Firestone of Spencer, Ohio, a wealthy member of the Harvey Firestone family, founders of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and one of the nation's richest men. Many would say Dr. Buchanan was
spending some of the Firestone fortune with his economic ventures in Charlton County.
The night the portly Buchanan got off the train at the Folkston railroad depot was cool and damp. He grabbed up a grip in each hand and headed across the town's Main
Street toward the Hotel Arnold to put up for the night. A crowd had gathered in the hotel's lobby that night, and Buchanan chose to move a block further down the street to the gleaming, white, Central Hotel.
The hotel's operator, Mrs. Charles Sikes met Buchanan at the registration desk. She had only recently taken over the business, and was eager to register as many guests
as she could.
Buchanan told her he would be staying several days.
Thus began almost a quarter-century of spending in Charlton County for the Ohio doctor. In the dining room of the Central Hotel that night, Dr. Buchanan learned that the
county's newspaper, The Charlton County Herald, had just changed hand on that very day. Mrs. J. W. Robinson and her husband, of Elred,
Florida had bought the newspaper from Tom Wrench.
Two months after first arriving in Folkston, Buchanan began buying up farmland west of Folkston. On this land would be his Dixie Lake Dairy. He spent weeks-riding railroad
cars to numbers of towns in Florida, buying up prize bulls and cows for his dairy. Dr. Buchanan, always one to find the most competent help he could, imported a native of
Switzerland, C. J. Klumph, who bred prize Jersey Bulls, to run his dairy farm. Even though there was no electricity available at the time, the ambitious doctor bought
electric milking machines. Current furnished by gasoline engines would operate them. The dairy showed a profit only when Buchanan and Klumph sold off some of their prize bulls.
Soon, Buchanan would begin his dream, building Dixie Lake itself and in conjunction with it, the county's first swimming pool. Buchanan bought lands at Clay Branch, a
half-mile west of Folkston, owned by Abraham Ponce, and once operated as a small grits mill. The site held the remains of an earthen dam that had been built 75 years earlier.
Buchanan began his Dixie Lake project by using dynamite to blast out a huge hole in the clay soil. Men with shovels labored for months to fashion out Dixie Lake.
Buchanan's money flowed like wine.
With the lake taking shape, Buchanan decided to build a large community
swimming pool adjoining the lake. Buchanan rapidly became one of the
county's more popular businessmen. His Dixie Lake Dairy supplied housewives
with milk, butter and ice cream. On his Dixie Lake, ten rowboats afforded
people of the town with countless afternoons of boating pleasures and his
Dixie Lake Swimming Pool endeared him to the county's young.
Buchanan chose to develop a large pecan grove, sending to west Georgia and Alabama for the finest young pecan trees. He developed a 210-acre pecan grove that
became the envy of the state.
With the nation getting into World War One, Buchanan was called upon to lead patriotic parades to spur military enlistments. The people of the county wanted to
celebrate July 4, 1917 as never before. Buchanan responded, gathering brass bands, what few automobiles that were available, including Dr. A. D. Williams' new Overland
sedan and Ben Scott's shiny new Buick. The automobiles were decked out in red, white and blue bunting. Horses in the parade, likewise, were wrapped in colorful bunting.
On that July 4, 1917, there was no one more popular with the people of Charlton County than Dr. J. W. Buchanan. Buchanan relished the warm friendship heaped upon
him, a northerner, by the people of the area. On that July 4, he opened his Dixie Lake and swimming pool at no charge. Ice cream from his Dixie Lake Dairy was served free to all that would have some.
Buchanan then became obsessed with airplanes. He bought land between Folkston and Homeland and developed an airport. Buchanan hired pilots from Atlanta to move to
Folkston to provide rides over the Okefenokee Swamp. To run the airport venture, he hired a man who called himself "Count DeWay". Deway caused commotion's in
Folkston when he rode his prancing walking horse along the dirt Main Street, dressed out in fashionable riding clothes and holding a riding crop under his arm. A giant
airplane hangar was built at the airport, used for airplanes and for holding boxing matches among the locals. The hangar would be destroyed by a wildfire in the 1930s.
In retrospect, it turned out that DeWay, whom some called a con man, helped Buchanan run through hundreds of thousands of dollars on the airport project.
Buchanan's money, and perhaps some of the Firestone's too, began to reach the bottom of the barrel.
Then, the luck of Dr. Buchanan began to change; for the worse. A typhoid fever epidemic struck Charlton county causing many deaths. Dr. Buchanan's Dixie Lake
was blamed for breeding mosquitoes, which the residents thought responsible for the fever. Buchanan was criticized in the weekly newspaper for allowing the mosquitoes to
breed. He responded in subsequent issues, reminding readers of their own unsanitary outhouses, garbage dumps and privies, and citing evidence that his lake had no mosquitoes.
Then, too add insult to injury, a severe hurricane worked its way up the coast north from Florida, bringing deluges of rain and wind ahead of it to Charlton County. Weeks
of rain undermined the soil at Buchanan's Dixie Lake swimming pool, and after a few days, the dam broke, the walls of the swimming pool crumbled, and the dreams of Dr.
J. W. Buchanan were dashed against the driving winds of the tropical hurricane.
The health of Dr. Buchanan began to deteriorate, and his son, Clarence, moved down from Ohio to help his struggling father. Dr. Buchanan's wife and daughters however,
remained in Wooster.
Clarence Buchanan began to wind down his father's projects. He continued to dip gum from the pine trees, but soon began to dispose of his property. Many of the land
holdings were sold to the Firestone family, and some were sold at public auction in front of the Charlton County Courthouse.
Dr. Buchanan died on November 9, 1934. His body was returned to his native Wooster, Ohio for burial, but the forward-looking projects of the Ohio physician excited Charlton
County residents for 18 years. Locals speculate that Dr. Buchanan spent millions on his Charlton County projects, much of it during the Great Depression.
The ventures of the stocky-friendly doctor , J. W. Buchanan, from Wooster, Ohio are mentioned now only infrequently. Few recall the beginning of Dixie Lake and its
accompanying projects, the visions of an ambitious man who sought adventure and lost his fortune in the pinelands of Charlton County.
12. Folkston's three movie theaters, The Paxton, Ritz, and Topper, kept Charlton County entertained.
Most small towns boasted of only one movie house in the golden days of the movies. Folkston had only one "modern" movie house for most of those years. The Ritz Theater,
located today where Chesser Sales and Service is located on the south side of Main Street, was opened around 1936. It was in a building owned by Folkston Chevrolet Dealer, Charlie Passieu. Joe Hackel of Jacksonville, who also owned the
Ritz on Davis Street in Jacksonville, owned the business.
In the 1920s, Folkston had a silent movie house, The Paxton Theater, located where today Hopkins Gowen Oil Company has its offices, on West Main Street. A locally played piano
accompanied the flickering images on the screen, but Charlton County folks were proud of that Paxton Theater, it brought a little entertainment into the small town. The Paxton eventually closed when talking movies came along. The owners
could not afford to bring in the modern equipment necessary for sound movies.
The Paxton's successor, The Ritz opened around 1936 amid cheers from Main Street business owners. It would provide a catalyst to bring people into town to do their shopping and
sit through whatever movie was showing.
The Ritz had only been open for around a year when a tragic fire erupted in the movie house. No one was hurt, but the evacuation was less than smooth. A front-page editorial in
the following week's Charlton County Herald castigated the owners for not having better fire escapes. Only the front doors afforded a way out for those trapped inside. Hackle soon had the building owner build back doors with lighted
Exit signs glowing brightly.
That old Ritz Theater became the focus for trade on Folkston's Main Street. The Saturday night ritual was for families to come into town, visit with their neighbors, also in town,
and send the young to the "picture show" while they bought the week's supply of groceries.
The Saturday show, usually a western, ran continually from 4 o'clock in the afternoon to near midnight. Many youngsters sat through all the showings until the house lights were
turned on around midnight.
The Ritz sat atop the entertainment throne in Folkston from its opening in the mid 1930's until around 1946. Joe Hackle hired a Jacksonville man to manage the theater, Cecil
Cohen, and brought in another Jacksonville man and his wife to be projectionist and ticket seller, Bob and Cynthia Mullis. It was not long before Mullis had taught several local youngsters how to operate the two Simplex projectors. Fred
Askew, Jr. became Mullis' backup.
Things went well for the Ritz for years. The movie house showed high-tone feature films on Monday through Wednesday, but on weekends it always showed a western. That was what the
During the years of World War Two, the Ritz continued to operate, showing one war picture after another, always showing the Americans winning at every battle. Getting the film on
to the next customer caused hardships. Benton Brothers Express hauled most of the movie canisters, and often Mullis would have to drive the film into Jacksonville to the Benton center to get it to the next movie house on time. Wartime
blackouts in Jacksonville often caused Mullis to park for hours along U. S. 1 north of Jacksonville.
Gone With the Wind was such a film. It was in such demand that it was marked with a red label. It absolutely, positively had to be to the next movie house on the day after the Folkston showing.
Sadly, the old Ritz began to deteriorate. Rats began running across the bottom of the screen while patrons screamed. Finally it became known as the "rat house." The owners began
to re-book movies that had previously been shown in Folkston. Many became disenchanted with the once-prized Ritz.
Enter Theodore Dinkins, progressive Folkston business leader who always had his ears tuned to the wishes of the people of the county.
Just as soon as World War Two ended and equipment became available, Dinkins built the second Folkston movie house. He would name it "The Topper Theater",
apparently referring to topping the old Ritz. Both theaters ran for year,
competing head to head.
But, Dinkins Topper Theater booked the more modern movies while the Ritz continued to book older movie. They were cheaper. Soon ticket sales at the Ritz nose-dived, while the
Topper took on all the trappings of a downtown Jacksonville movie house. The Ritz finally closed its doors in the face of the competition from the new Topper.
Dinkins gave the people of the area what they wanted. He brought in live stage entertainers directly from the Palace Theater in Jacksonville. On the Topper's stage dancers kicked
their heels high to the strains of "There's no business like show business." The crowd loved it, and the ticket sales skyrocketed.
Dinkins took personal pride in his Topper Theater. His wife, Lois sold tickets while his sister, Iva Dinkins Mizell, sold popcorn and Coca-Cola in the concession room, just off
the main lobby.
The Topper premiered a locally produced movie, Swamp Girl, with country singer, Ferlin Husky. A lowboy trailer was pulled up in front of the theater for Husky to sing "On
the Wings of a Dove", while several beautiful young actresses danced across the trailer bed. The hundreds nearby screamed with delight. The movie, however, was a complete flop.
Theo Dinkins continued to promote his Topper Theater until other business interests began to consume more of his time, The Okefenokee Motel, Dinkins and McKendree Logging. He
leased the theater to State Senator Nolan Wells from Camden County. Wells also owned the Kingsland Theater. Wells eventually turned over his lease to another party, and business at the once-mighty Topper began to slide.
The Topper had fallen victim to more modern movie houses in Jacksonville and Waycross. Soon Folkston had no movie houses at all. The Paxton, The Ritz, and The Topper had been
swept up in the winds of change.
But, each had its own history. It's own followers. The Ritz gave the people of Charlton County a place to relax during the trying war years of World War Two. The Topper moved in
and brought locals the finest movies available.
Now, no movie houses are on Folkston's Main Street, but memories of those past "picture shows" linger with the older residents. There's no business like show business.
13. Depression-Era Faith Healer Finds Success in Folkston, While Hardships Abound Around Him
Charlton County was suffering through its deepest-ever-economic depression. Men without jobs, hung out in Folkston's poolroom, or in Carl Roy's Blue Willow Restaurant.
Folkston had but one paved street, The Dixie Highway that wound through the town in a figure S. It was 1932 and the mood of the nation was at its lowest point. The infant son of
aviation hero Charles Lindberg was kidnapped and killed, and Herbert Hoover was in the White House.
Charlton County had a new Sheriff. Jim Sikes was serving his first year in office after succeeding W. H. Mizell who had held the office since 1910. J. C. Littlefield was Chairman
of the Board of Commissioners.
But, amid all the misery, one seemed above the economic problems: A faith healer, Doctor E. L. Douglas, who operated from his home in the northeast part of Folkston.
Douglas was blind and stories of his miracle healings reached far and wide. Daily, and especially on weekends, his home was ringed with automobiles bringing in people from
hundreds of miles away, seeking help for their physical ailments. Douglas' fee was fifty cents.
A family from Brantley County brought their under-developed young daughter to the faith healer. The girl, while fully developed above her waist, was so poorly formed below her
waist she couldn't stand on her legs. She moved around in a wheel chair.
Douglas saw the young girl in his home and began to perform his ritual while the girl's parents sat nearby. In a matter of weeks the parents reported their daughter had responded
miraculously and was walking normally. Her happy parents were convinced that Douglas had performed a miracle.
News of the girl's recovery spread quickly, and hundreds more found their way to Douglas' home-office.
Douglas, in addition to his faith healing practice, ran a well-stocked grocery store that adjoined his home. The store was always neat and clean and tended by courteous young
girls. On the shelves were always fireworks and novelties for those who could afford them.
In the middle 1930s, Douglas opened faith healing clinics in Brunswick, Jacksonville, Waycross and Savannah. He had a regular routine for visiting the branch offices while
maintaining his headquarters in Folkston.
Douglas would be driven up to the Citizens Bank to make his daily deposits. While others struggled for survival, Douglas always had a big black automobile, was impeccably dressed
with a tall black hat atop his head. Helped up the steps to the bank by his assistants, Douglas hauled in his deposits, usually in silver half-dollars, in brown paper sacks, sat them on the bank counter and asked the teller to count the
Douglas did not participate in the Great Depression, his income continued to soar through the mid-thirties, but others didn't fare as well.
The federal government in six weeks of 1932 sent nearly 1,200 sacks of government flour to Charlton County residents. Folkston received 648 sacks; Toledo got 96, Uptonville 5,
Traders Hill 59, Prescott Neighborhood 100, Moniac 100, and St. George 174 sacks of the free flour.
Tom Wrench, editor of the Charlton County Herald tried to cheer up his readers. Wrench wrote of 1883 when 150 railroads went bankrupt, and to 1857 when soldiers were brought in to
guard the nation's treasury against citizen raids.
Still, the affluence of Dr. Douglas amid all the poverty was a topic of conversation. Douglas was born in Folkston in 1892. John Harris, in his 1972 Historical Notes, wrote
that in 1899 there was but one Black family in Folkston; The Bill Douglas family. Bill Douglas was apparently the father of the faith healer. Dr. Douglas was partially blind all his life, but in his later years, completely lost his sight.
The self-proclaimed faith healer earned the respect of the entire community. Although he was blind, he still was able to ascertain when he was meeting someone. He would tip the
big Homburg Hat, and speak politely.
Douglas died at his home in Folkston on Sunday morning, March 16, 1947. He was only 55.
Funeral services were held a week later and he was laid to rest in the cemetery of his church.
Douglas had overcome his physical handicap and had become financially independent practicing his faith healing and operating his grocery store in northeast Folkston.
Soon after Douglas' death, his offices and store were closed. Douglas and his wife, Evalina had no children, but adopted and raised several.
Even today, some of the early settlers recall the busy home office of the prominent faith healer; his tidy country store, and the apparent total disregard he had for the nation's
deepest economic depression.
|14. Movers and Shakers Meet at Stapleton's Drug Store
The gleaming marble top of the soda fountain bar caught your eye when entering the drug store's front door. Overhead two original Hunter fans gently stirred a comfortable breeze. That was Stapleton's Drug Store on Folkston's Main Street in the depression days of the 1930s, long before air conditioning.
The drug store was owned and operated by E. B. Stapleton, Sr. who first opened it as Stapleton Pharmacy in the early 1920s, although its predecessor drug stores, Napier's Pharmacy
and Pearce Drug Store had their beginnings in Folkston in 1917. Stapleton, along with Dr. J. A. Moore and Donald F. Pearce, bought the drug store from Napier in 1917. Stapleton managed the fledgling business.
But, it's not the pedigree of the drug store that made it a Charlton County legend before it was closed in March of 1994, after Stapleton's death in 1966, fifty years after the
Weston, Georgia native arrived in Folkston, looking for a business to open. His two sons, Pearce and E. B. Jr., operated the drug store for 28 years following their father's death.
Inside that drugstore was a virtual history of Folkston's tumultuous years of the roaring twenties, the Great Depression of the thirties, and World War Two. On the slick oval
marble tops of the wrought iron tables inside the drugstore, movers and shakers made decisions that shaped the destiny of Folkston and Charlton County for over a half century.
E. B. Stapleton, Sr. was known as a shrewd businessman. Since arriving in Folkston in 1916, he had accumulated considerable pinelands and real estate with profits from made from
his drug store and accompanying general insurance agency business.
Political leaders sought Stapleton's business advice. Worried widows turned to him for help, and blue-collar workers asked his advice on difficult problems. The silver-haired
Stapleton was always eager to help.
During the dark days of the nation's worse economic depression, the frugal Stapleton tightened his belt to ride out the depression. His drug store sold coal for the community's
pot-bellied heaters and stayed open long hours to serve the public.
Folkston banker, William Mizell, Jr., who headed up the Citizens Bank just two doors down the block from Stapleton's Drug Store, was a frequent visitor to "talk with Stape" about
some community problem. The two sat hunched over one of the oval marble tables and talked. Mizell would rub his rather bulbous nose, a sure sign that the banker was worried. He always went away from the drugstore convinced that his and
Stapleton's collective decision would solve the problem.
Perhaps it was not the depression years, although they were horrendous, but the war years of World War Two, when Stapleton's Rexall Drug Store was the loudest heartbeat of the
county. Inside that drug store the town's business leaders met up each morning to compare notes on the war. Later in the day, Henry Gibson, one of the county's rural mail carriers walked inside, followed in order by the town's Chevrolet
dealer, Charlie Passieu, and cattleman Clifford Mizell. The three were just a few who daily met together inside the drugstore to learn of the war effort, to talk of the weather, and to spin yarns. Somehow they all went away feeling better
for the interlude.
On June 6, 1944, Folkston mayor Charlie Passieu dashed excitedly into the drugstore, shouting, "Our boys have landed!" This was a reference to the Allies landing at Normandy on
D-Day that marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. The news was greeted with shouts of joy. The visitors inside picked the genial mayor's memory for more details. Passieu's only son, Louie was Flight Officer on a B-29 bomber in
the China-Burma-India Theater. Passieu always pridefully updated the drugstore visitors about the latest adventures of his son, Louie.
Stapleton's drugstore at Christmas time was the "in-place" to shop in Folkston and Charlton County in the 30s and 40s. A white latticework barrier separated the pharmacy section
from the rest of the drugstore. Stapleton had his insurance office near the pharmacy department. In the showroom the shopper could choose from a giant collection of Christmas gifts, ranging from ladies' makeup kits, to chocolate-covered
cherries. On Saturday nights, the drugstore, as most other stores on Folkston's Main Street, remained open until near midnight. That would allow rural county residents to catch up on their visiting "in town" before doing the week's
Inside the walls of Stapleton's Drug Store raged all sides of community problems: Voting in the "no fence law," bond issues for school constructions, Franklin Roosevelt's "New
Deal" and National Recovery Administration. All sides of every issue got a complete airing from customers inside those drugstore walls.
Stapleton served in a number of local government elective offices including County Commissioner and Mayor of Folkston. His progressive ideas often moved the county forward. It was
the druggist that came on the scene in Folkston in 1916 that insisted that Folkston's Kingsland Drive be widened inside the city limits when Highway 40 was first paved in 1937. He helped organize the county's first Timber Protective
Organization, an embryo organization to help prevent forest fires, and the forerunner of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
When Stapleton's drugstore closed its doors for the final time on March 31, 1994, a part of Charlton County and Folkston died, leaving only poignant memories of nearly eighty
years as the heartbeat of Folkston's Main Street: Its rejoicing and sorrowing as it breathed in synch with the nation's rhythm from the days of World War One until the doorsteps of the Twenty-First Century.
|15. Charlton Gets Its First Bank!
Charlton county residents thought they had arrived, at last, when the county's
first bank opened its doors on the sand streets of Folkston. It was 1908.
The nation was involved in a heated political race for the White House. President Theodore Roosevelt was not running for re-election, but two-time
loser, William Jennings Bryan was running again, this time against William Howard Taft. Taft won overwhelmingly.
The men of Charlton County were talking very little national politics; in addition, women were not allowed to vote.
The interest in Folkston and Charlton County came around the town of 300 getting its first bank. It would be
organized by a group of men living in Ludowici, and incorporated as Liberty Banking Company of Ludowici. The new bank would be named, simply, the Bank of Folkston.
The town's first masonry commercial building took just a few months to build on the southeast corner of First and Main. The streets were unpaved, there were no
automobiles in the county, and Henry Ford had just begun producing his Model-Ts in Detroit. Long wooden boards were laid in the sand in front of the new bank to serve as a sidewalk.
Crane-necked locals had a field day while that bank was being built. At the same time, a well driller was trying to reach water with the town's first water well. That task was
almost given up as a failure, when hardpan stopped the well driller's equipment. Townspeople would scurry from bank to well, a distance of less than a block away.
The Bank of Folkston's first officers were L. Carter as president, N. McQueen and Joseph P. Mizell, vice-presidents. L. P. Mizell was cashier, and C. S. Wainwright, the
assistant cashier. This was considered quite a number of employees for a start-up bank in a town of less than 300.
The Twentieth Century had been ushered in just eight years earlier, and immigrants from the north and midwest were settling at St. George and Homeland. Folkston was
frantically trying to keep up with the two Colony Companies, the 1904 Colony Company in St. George, and the 1906 Colony Company in Homeland. Friendly competition flourished.
Charlton County was not without a newspaper, Folkston lawyer, Colonel Marshall Olliff, had begun his Charlton County Herald in 1898. Now the town would have its own bank.
Nevertheless, all did go well for the Bank of Folkston. Soon Folkston businessmen began to envy the "out of town" bank. Thus began the Citizens Bank in 1912.
Local merchants began to take their money out of the Bank of Folkston and deposit it in the Citizens Bank, located at first, in the Arnold Hotel building just west of the
town's railroad tracks.
The Bank of Folkston began to lose money, and its officers decided to pull out of the town, after only 5 years of operations. A receiver was named to collect its notes, and
pay its debts. One of the officers, N. McQueen was named as receiver.
The Citizens Bank had no competition. The nearest other bank was miles away, and travel was either by rail or horse and wagon.
That old building, built as the Bank of Folkston, continued to serve the community well although it was no longer a bank. Upstairs was the telephone office and its 24-hour
operator. Downstairs has been occupied by a number of doctors including Dr. A. D. Williams, Dr. J. W. Schneider, and others. Theodore Dinkins bought the building and
operated his South Georgia Timber Company from the building. The massive concrete and steel vault remained there for most of the other tenants.
Today, Robert W. Harrison owns the building, with his offices upstairs over the adjoining building, which used to be the Topper Theater. The ground floor is occupied
as a beauty salon.
Today one has to look closely to see any resemblance between that building of 1908, and the building seen today. It's underneath where the history lives of a struggling
community and a struggling bank at the turn of the century.
|16. Railroads Tie Charlton County Communities Together
Soon after the turn of the century, in 1904, Charlton County began to blossom. Those were days before the roaring twenties. Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, and the
nation was enjoying prosperity. Charlton County came in for its share.
In 1904 in the south end of Charlton County, a mid-western newspaper publisher, P. H. Fitzgerald publisher of the American Tribune, an Indianapolis, Indiana newspaper,
pushed his 1904 Colony Company there to migrants from the mid-west.
The settlement had formerly been named Cutler Station. Fitzgerald would name the community the City of St. George, a memorial to a young grandson, George, who died before his
Fitzgerald had begun a similar colonization project in Texas. The development in Texas failed, and stockholders were offered shares of the Saint George colonization to surrender
their shares of the Texas development.
The Saint George project soon failed also, and fell into the hands of a court-appointed receiver. Funds received from the Receiver were used to build St. George's first
schoolhouse. P. H. Fitzgerald almost went to jail for the developments. Instead, he pled guilty to mail fraud and ordered to pay a $1,600 dollar fine. Thus began the 20th Century for Charlton County.
In Folkston in 1904, as the new century began, settlers were celebrating winning the County Seat of government from Traders Hill in a close election in 1901.
Folkston had begun to prosper since the first trains passed through the town in 1881, as they traveled between Waycross and Jacksonville.
In 1904, Charlton County had a new courthouse, in Folkston, replacing the decaying log courthouse at Traders Hill.
The railroad was king. Folkston took its name from a Waycross, Georgia physician, Dr. William Brandon Folks whom acting as a land agent for the railroad, had acquired the rights
of way for the rail lines to lay their tracks through the county. The railroad remained king in Folkston for nearly a half century. Employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company got special treatment from area merchants. The
railroad would see that their employee paid their bills.
The railroad depot building in Folkston was one of the busiest places in town in 1904. The town had a population of less than 200. H. C. Page was the station agent.
Daily, merchants would pick up supplies from the freight room. Passenger trains, stopped all through the day to pick up and discharge passengers.
However, it was in 1912, as Folkston became a town of 355 people that a telegraph tower was built in Folkston by the Railroad Company. Then the community began to keep more
quickly in touch with the rest of the world. Radios did not come until the 1920s. Until then, Charlton county people read of world happenings in daily newspapers, usually the Savannah Morning News.
Scores of young Folkston men would gather on the grounds at the base of the telegraph tower to hear results of prizefights and World Series baseball games. The telegraph operator,
reading the clicks from a sounder as the news wires transmitted the action, would relay the information to the crowd below. In 1912, Folkston youngsters heard Boston win over the New York Giants in the World Series from the lips of the
During those times, the telegraph operator became the most important man in town. Western Union messages were sent and received by the railroad telegraph operator for people
throughout the county. It was over those telegraph wires that the people of Folkston learned of political elections, and of the sinking of the Titanic.
Folkston owed lots to the railroads, and few complaints came about its operations in Folkston. Housewives didn't complain of the cinders scattered by steam locomotives as they
roared through the city. The women would scurry to pick their white linens from their clotheslines and carry them into the house until the cinders ceased to fall.
Today, there stands beside the feed store of Billy Thrift, an ancient wooden building, complete with shutter-windows. J. E. Harvey, Sr., one of Folkston's earliest telegraph
operators, said that building was operated as a store when he first came to Folkston in 1904.
There can be no doubt that without the railroads there would be few settlements in Charlton County, and throughout the nation. The towns sprang up along those rail lines as
America adventured into more territory. Folkston and Saint George are certainly no exception.
The Folkston Barbershops of Pete Stroup and O. W. Layton in the 30s and
40s Had Charm, Character…and Gossip
Composite photograph shows two early Folkston barbers, Pete Stroup on the left, and O. W. Layton, right. The two barbers turned their Main Street shops into the heartbeat of the community during the depression years and into the
years of World War Two.
By Jack Mays
In the 1930s and 1940s, if you wanted to learn what was going on, you went to one of Folkston's two barbershops, both on Main Street. Pete Stroup operated his shop in
the Rodgers Building (Now Folkston Pharmacy), and O. W. Layton's shop was next door to Mrs. Bank's Restaurant.
Stroup, in the depression years of the late 1930s charged a quarter for his haircuts, and Layton got the same thing. There was sort of an agreement between the two that
they would charge the same price. Layton had something Stroup's shop didn't have…a hot water bath for 50 cents. Few used the bath, but when they did, Layton would start a fire with wood and warm up his water heater.
Stroup was extremely involved in community activities. He managed the local semi-pro baseball team and was a deacon in Folkston's First Baptist Church. His duties also
included, on Sunday mornings to walk down to the church and ring the church bell. A job he filled faithfully.
Layton was more withdrawn. Layton drove his Plymouth automobile from his
home to his shop every morning, his dog, Tuesday, running behind. At
noontime, Layton's wife brought his meal to him. No matter who was in the
chair, Layton stopped cutting his hair, sat in a chair beside his wife, and
ate the meal she had brought him. His customers learned not to visit
Layton's shop at noontime or they could encounter a delay while the barber
finished off his plate.
However, it was not the personalities of the two barbers that took center stage. It was what went on inside the two barbershops, the heartbeat of the community.
Saturday nights in Stroup's shop was where most of the locals whiled away their hours. Many had no jobs during the depression years and would compare stories of
hunting and fishing to entertain themselves. The smell of cigar smoke hung heavily over Stroup's shop; Otis Nobles was usually there with his ever-present cigar. Nobles had a
favorite seat in the shop, an elevated shoeshine stand. Few could afford to have their shoes shined by the shine boy. The shoeshine chair gave Nobles a higher vantage
point than the other street level chairs spread around the walls of the shop.
Things were not always quiet inside the shops, depending upon who was running for office and what scandal was making its rounds through the county. Stroup had two
other barbers working chairs in his shop on Saturday nights, Fitzhugh Murray and Mike Michaels. Both were opinionated and weren't shy about letting their feeling on every issue be known.
Sometimes the debate got out of hand and Stroup had to call the shop to order. The loud arguments usually quieted down. Stroup had a temper of his own, and when
pushed it came to the front. The men in the shop respected Stroup, who in later years, developed palsy, or disease that caused his hands to shake. Nevertheless, when
Stroup's straight razor hit the face, the blade glided through the shaving cream with an unmatched smoothness.
Across the street in Layton's barbershop, a different crowd filled the chairs on Saturday nights; maybe they were just a little less vocal than those in Stroup's shop.
Layton's wife often came in to visit her husband and the men waiting in the shop knew to act like gentlemen in her presence, or she would quickly put them in their place.
In the days of World War Two, both barbers brought radios to their shops, to hear the war news. Gabriel Heater, a famed radio commentator of the time, usually took top
billing at Stroup's shop. Heater would open his wartime broadcasts with the words:
"There's good news tonight", or adversely, "There's no good news tonight." In either
case the men in the barbershop hushed their chatter until Heater's 15-minute broadcast was over. They would spend the next several hours talking about Heater's comments.
Barbershops today don't seem to have the same charm and character as those
of Stroup and Layton. Men today are in too much of a hurry; it's into the
chair and out of the shop. Not like the several hours many whiled away in
Stroup and Layton's barbershop in the 1930s and 1940s.
|18. Could the "Lost Patrol"
have Crashed into the Okefenokee in 1945?
By Jack Mays
World War Two had ended just 4 months earlier. It was December 5, 1945 and five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers
took off from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida on what was expected to be a routine training flight. Instead, the bombers and their crews, 14 men, never returned.
The episode became the central theme in the Bermuda Triangle legend when it was widely assumed the planes and crew ditched in the Atlantic, never to be heard from again.
Now, 55 years later, in 2000, a new theory has emerged. Could the planes
and crew have mistakenly turned back toward Fort Lauderdale and ran out of fuel over the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp and crash landed into the morass of wilderness.
The planes had about 5 hours of fuel onboard. The black waters and muck in the 400,000-acre wilderness would have swallowed up the heavy planes and crew instantly. No search was ever done of the Okefenokee. Instead, the navy searched
thousands of square miles of the Atlantic, losing a PBM Mariner search plane with a 13-man crew in the futile search. No trace of the Mariner was found, adding to the
mystery. A History Channel Television episode, This Week in History, produced by Jonathan Grupper, dealt with that theory in a showing on December 1, 2000.
Here's what is known, according to the Navy, written by Michael McDonnell in Naval Aviation News in June 1973:
Five Avengers are airborne at 2 o'clock on a bright sunny afternoon. The mission is a routine two-hour patrol from Fort Lauderdale, Florida due east for 150 miles, north for
40 miles and then return to base. All 5 pilots are highly experienced aviators and all of the aircraft have been carefully checked prior to takeoff. The weather over the route is
reported to be excellent, a typical sunny Florida day. The flight proceeds. At 3:45 p.m. Fort Lauderdale tower receives a call from the flight, but instead of requesting landing
instructions, the flight leader sounds confused and worried. "Cannot see land," he blurts. "We seem to be off course."
"What is your position?" the tower asks. There are a few moments of silence.
The tower personnel squint into the sunlight of the clear Florida afternoon. No sign of the flight. "We cannot be sure where we are," the flight leader announces. "Repeat: Cannot see land."
Contact is lost with the flight for about 10 minutes and then it is resumed.
However, it is not the voice of the flight leader. Instead, voices of the crews are heard, sounding confused and disoriented, "more like a bunch of boy scouts lost in the
woods than experienced airmen flying in clear weather. "We can't find west. Everything is wrong. We can't be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even
the ocean." Another delay and then the tower operator learns to his surprise that the leader has handed over his command to another pilot for no apparent reason.
Twenty minutes later, the new leader calls the tower, his voice trembling and
bordering on hysteria. "We can't tell where we are…everything is…can't make out anything. We think we may be about 225 miles northeast of base…." For a few
moments the pilot rambles incoherently before uttering the last words ever heard from Flight 19. "It looks like we are entering white water…We are completely lost."
Over the Okefenokee that night of December 5, 1945, it had been raining and
the skies were overcast. People in the town of Folkston were in their homes, still celebrating the homecoming of their sons and husbands who were being discharged from the Armed Forces, some after 4 years of battle action.
The churches were practicing their Christmas musical presentations and
merchants were rejoicing over their Christmas sales prospects with hundreds of items that were non-existent during the ration years of the war.
Pack Stokes, owner of Stokes Motors, the town's Chrysler Dealer, was
looking forward to a few new 1946 model Plymouths and Chryslers. His last model sold was a 1941 Plymouth. The war effort had taken all the succeeding models.
Stapleton's Rexall Drug Store had stocked up on new Christmas gifts,
watches, pen and pencil sets, makeup kits and candies. Across the street, Dr. W. D. Thompson and his wife, Vera, had put up new Christmas decorations in their Folkston
Pharmacy. It was good to be getting back to business as normal after four years of deprivation and sacrifice.
Warplanes over Folkston had been a common sight as Navy Trainers from
Jacksonville Naval Station daily flew training flights over the city. A flight of 5 Torpedo Bombers headed toward the Okefenokee would have been nothing unusual. It was a
favorite flight pattern for the Jacksonville based pilots. Army planes from the Waycross Air Base and Valdosta also flew over the swamp on a daily basis.
As confused as the pilots of Flight 19 were, a slight wrong turn on the return
to Fort Lauderdale would have taken them over the Okefenokee as they headed west.
When the planes ran out of fuel, all were instructed to ditch the planes when
the first ran out of fuel. The pilots could have easily mistaken the overcast Okefenokee as the Atlantic Ocean and plowed into the murky swamp and disappeared forever.
Naval authorities never contemplated such a possibility. Had they crashed landed in the Okefenokee, the heavy Torpedo Bombers would have sunk almost instantly in the soft surface. The area was almost inaccessible to man.
Even today, sophisticated search instruments could possibly detect five
heavy warplanes, even under the surface of the swamp. It's an interesting theory and one that should be investigated for the families of the 14 crewmen aboard those 5 World War Two torpedo bombers.
|19. Great Depression of 1930s Struck Charlton Hard - Business District Suffers.
The mid-1930s saw Charlton County about like the rest of the nation: broke and with no jobs for its people. Schools could not pay their teachers; state highway contracts could not
be paid for, bankrupting struggling road contractors.
One Charlton County resident was among the road contractors who never received pay for their paving contracts. M. G. White, who had been highly successful in the paving business
for years. The dire financial crisis of the state caused him to have to sell off his prized possession, Coleraine Estate on the St. Marys River.
Many stores along Folkston's Main Street, granting credit as long as they could, found themselves unable to pay their suppliers. Many closed their doors.
A Georgia-based chain grocery store, The Suwannee Store, operated on Main Street in Folkston. It had a series of managers and proved to be one of the county's more popular stores.
Among the managers in the mid-thirties were Fred Askew, Sr., and H. J. Mays.
One Homeland resident, Bena Kennison, pedaled extracts, brooms and mops house to house from a Model A Ford. Kennison had at one time been one of Charlton County's most prosperous
farmers. With no market for his produce, he turned to running a McNess route throughout the county.
Kennison's wife, Mary Willey Kennison, suffered right along with her husband during those lean days. She was the daughter of a once-wealthy Pennsylvania Railroad Superintendent
who lost everything when his bank on Long Island, New York folded without paying its depositors. His life savings, gathered to allow him to move south and retire, were wiped out. He and his family came south anyway, and she married
Kennison. Mary Kennison was a graduate of prestigious Vassar College.
Kennison and his wife became popular peddlers throughout the county, stopping and visiting with most families while selling his McNess products. Kennison always had a stick of
cinnamon chewing gum for the kids in the home. His Model A Ford found its way through the county's sand roads into most homes for most of the 1930s.
In Homeland, the town's railroad depot was one of the busiest places in town. The Homeland Post Office with Eli Waughtel as Post Master doubled as a gathering place for the
unemployed. Mrs. Arthur Roberts little store on the Dixie Highway made it through the depression. Mr. Roberts was a member of the Homeland City government. Their two sons, Louie and Orlando, earlier, had operated a Whippet automobile
dealership on the Dixie Highway right across from their parent's store.
In Folkston, Howard Wrench's poolroom on the ground floor of the Arnold Hotel building was a favorite hangout for men without jobs. The poolroom had two wooden columns supporting
the awning. Men with pocket knives, whittled at them until they became no larger than an ax handle, and had to be replaced.
President Franklin Roosevelt's recovery program began to pump money into the county. CCC camps gave jobs to many of the unemployed, working in the pine forests and the Okefenokee
Swamp. Two CCC Camps were built, in Hershey Park in Homeland and in St. George.
A commodity warehouse opened at the rear of the Charlton County Courthouse. In it Arnold Scott handed out free grits, potatoes and army surplus clothing to the needy. There was
always a long line waiting when Scott opened for business each day.
In the lower floor of the Folkston Masonic Building, ladies of the county ran a sewing room, making mattress coverings, and dresses. Dresses were made from discarded flour sacks,
which often had gaudy flowers printed on the material. The flour manufacturer had learned that flour slacks with colorful patterns, sold flour, at the Suwanne Store and elsewhere.
On Folkston's West Main Street, in the Arnold Hotel Building, "Uncle Bill" Mathews ran his furniture store; dealing largely is used furniture that he had renovated. One of Uncle
Bill's specialties was replacing the wicks in kerosene cook stoves. A tedious operation at best.
On the corner of Okefenokee Drive and Main Street, Mrs. Mary Askew ran her Okefenokee Restaurant. A community youngster known as "Buttercup" Bolden dressed in a gleaming white
suit and a sign inviting motorists into the restaurant. His brother was named William and he had two sisters, Angeline and Willie Mae. Their dog was named "Spare-Ribs" which aptly described the black and white animal.
Another business operating out of the ground floor of the Arnold Hotel during much of the depression, was Tuttles Shoe Shop. On Saturday night Tuttle would fry fish on the
sidewalks outside the shoe shop, drawing those who had a quarter over to the cooker for one of his tangy fish sandwiches. The aroma of frying fish wafted through much of the town every Saturday night.
The days of the depression passed slowly in Charlton County. Those lean years lasted from 1930 until 1939, when America's preparations for World War Two, created well paying jobs
in defense industries. Charlton men and women worked in the shipyards of Jacksonville and Brunswick. Roosevelt's "Happy Days are here Again" began to be the watchword in the county that for years had sung songs like "Who's afraid
of the big bad wolf." The wolf referring to the depression.
Slowly Charlton County, like the rest of the nation, began to forget the painful years of the Great Depression. Jobs became plentiful as men were called into service in World War
Two. But for many businesses, the turnaround had come too late. The ten depression years had left many broke and unable to begin anew. Some went to work in defense jobs; others joined the army and navy. The long lean years of the Great
Depression, but just a painful memory, but a colorful part of Charlton County's Twentieth Century.
|20. Great Depression of 1930s Struck Charlton Hard
The mid-1930s saw Charlton County about like the rest of the nation:
broke and with no jobs for its people. Schools could not pay their
teachers; state highway contracts could not be paid for, bankrupting
struggling road contractors.
One Charlton County resident was among the road contractors who never received pay for their paving contracts. M. G. White, who had been highly successful in the paving
business for years. The dire financial crisis of the state caused him to have to sell off his prized possession, Coleraine Estate on the St. Marys River.
Many stores along Folkston's Main Street, granting credit as long as they could, found themselves unable to pay their suppliers. Many closed their doors.
A Georgia-based chain grocery store, The Suwannee Store, operated on Main Street in Folkston. It had a series of managers and proved to be one of the county's more popular
stores. Among the managers in the mid-thirties were Fred Askew, Sr., and H. J. Mays.
One Homeland resident, Bena Kennison, pedaled extracts, brooms and mops house to house from a Model A Ford. Kennison had at one time been one of Charlton County's most
prosperous farmers. With no market for his produce, he turned to running a McNess route throughout the county.
Kennison's wife, Mary Willey Kennison, suffered right along with her husband during those lean days. She was the daughter of a once-wealthy Pennsylvania Railroad
Superintendent who lost everything when his bank on Long Island, New York folded without paying its depositors. His life savings, gathered to allow him to move south and retire, were wiped out. He and his family came south anyway, and she
married Kennison. Mary Kennison was a graduate of prestigious Vassar College.
Kennison and his wife became popular peddlers throughout the county, stopping and visiting with most families while selling his McNess products. Kennison always had a stick
of cinnamon chewing gum for the kids in the home. His Model A Ford found its way through the county's sand roads into most homes for most of the 1930s.
In Homeland, the town's railroad depot was one of the busiest places in town. The Homeland Post Office with Eli Waughtel as Post Master doubled as a gathering place for the
unemployed. Mrs. Arthur Roberts little store on the Dixie Highway made it through the depression. Mr. Roberts was a member of the Homeland City government. Their two sons, Louie and Orlando, earlier, had operated a Whippet automobile
dealership on the Dixie Highway right across from their parent's store.
In Folkston, Howard Wrench's poolroom on the ground floor of the Arnold Hotel building was a favorite hangout for men without jobs. The poolroom had two wooden columns
supporting the awning. Men with pocket knives, whittled at them until they became no larger than an ax handle, and had to be replaced.
President Franklin Roosevelt's recovery program began to pump money into the county. CCC camps gave jobs to many of the unemployed, working in the pine forests and the
Okefenokee Swamp. Two CCC Camps were built, in Hershey Park in Homeland and in St. George.
A commodity warehouse opened at the rear of the Charlton County Courthouse. In it Arnold Scott handed out free grits, potatoes and army surplus clothing to the needy. There
was always a long line waiting when Scott opened for business each day.
In the lower floor of the Folkston Masonic Building, ladies of the county ran a sewing room, making mattress coverings, and dresses. Dresses were made from discarded flour
sacks, which often had gaudy flowers printed on the material. The flour manufacturer had learned that flour slacks with colorful patterns, sold flour, at the Suwanee Store and elsewhere.
On Folkston's West Main Street, in the Arnold Hotel Building, "Uncle Bill" Mathews ran his furniture store; dealing largely is used furniture that he had renovated. One of
Uncle Bill's specialties was replacing the wicks in kerosene cook stoves. A tedious operation at best.
On the corner of Okefenokee Drive and Main Street, Mrs. Mary Askew ran her Okefenokee Restaurant. A community youngster known as "Buttercup" Bolden dressed in a gleaming
white suit and a sign inviting motorists into the restaurant. His brother was named William and he had two sisters, Angeline and Willie Mae. Their dog was named "Spare-Ribs" which aptly described the black and white animal.
Another business operating out of the ground floor of the Arnold Hotel during much of the depression, was Tuttles Shoe Shop. On Saturday night Tuttle would fry fish on the
sidewalks outside the shoe shop, drawing those who had a quarter over to the cooker for one of his tangy fish sandwiches. The aroma of frying fish wafted through much of the town every Saturday night.
The days of the depression passed slowly in Charlton County. Those lean years lasted from 1930 until 1939, when America's preparations for World War Two, created well paying
jobs in defense industries. Charlton men and women worked in the shipyards of Jacksonville and Brunswick. Roosevelt's "Happy Days are here Again" began to be the watchword in the county that for years had sung songs like "Who's
afraid of the big bad wolf." The wolf referring to the depression.
Slowly Charlton County, like the rest of the nation began to forget the
painful years of the Great Depression. Jobs became plentiful as men were
called into service in World War Two. But for many businesses, the
turnaround had come too late. The ten depression years had left many
broke and unable to begin anew. Some went to work in defense jobs;
others joined the army and navy. The long lean years of the Great
Depression, but just a painful memory, but a colorful part of Charlton
County's Twentieth Century.
The Last Hanging At Traders Hill in 1884, Recalled
March 7, 1884: The day dawned at Traders Hill as another beautiful spring day. However, today would be different. A man was to be hanged today for killing a neighbor with a double barrel shot gun.
Sheriff John Brooks was visibly disturbed. He didn't look forward to his chore of hanging a fellow townsman. 48 year old David McClain. McClain was to die for killing William F.
Saxon in February 1879. For much of the five years since the murder, McClain had been held prisoner in the log stockade that served as the Charlton County jail at Traders Hill. Brooks and McClain had become close friends as the sheriff
brought meals to the prisoner. In fact, Brooks had become quite fond of the illiterate farmer.
McClain was married to Sarah Smith, a sister of Lydia Stone, Queen of the Okefenokee. Sarah, after her husband was hanged, would move to Dade County, Florida where she
became known as the "Ox-Woman". Mrs. McClain drove an ox-cart from Racepond to south Dade County, Florida in 1907, and created a legend as the "Ox-Woman". Her sister, Lydia Stone, rode a red mule from Racepond to visit her sister in
Florida. Both women were giants, measuring around 6 feet 4 inches tall.
Sheriff Brooks recalled the incident in 1879, leading to the fatal shooting of Saxon. Saxon had bought a small tract of land at Traders Hill, and the McClain family had gone to
the home demanding payment for improvements they had made to the home, including building a rail fence, before Saxon took title to the property. Saxon refused to pay the $50 dollars demanded by the McClains. David McClain had cursed in the
presence of Saxon's family, which triggered an angry response from Saxon. Saxon threatened to whip David McClain, but walked away. It was then that McClain fired two rounds of buckshot from his double barrel shotgun into Saxon as he walked
away from the confrontation. Saxon died almost instantly, and the McClain family hurriedly left the Saxon farm.
McClain fled with his wife Sarah to Suwannee Shoals, Florida, in Columbia County. But, word spread in Columbia County that McClain was wanted for murder in Charlton County,
A merchant there, John V. Brown heard the report and sought to claim any reward that might have been offered. On July 17, 1879, Brown wrote a letter to the sheriff of Charlton
"Dear Sir: I wish you would let me know at once if there is any reward offered for McClain, and if so, how much and by whom. The reason I write is there is a man around here who
is reported as having killed a man in your county. Let me know all about the reward and the full name of McClain. Do not delay as he may remove." The letter was signed "yours truly, John V. Brown. "P. S. I heard there is a reward offered
by the governor and by private individuals. JVB."
Sheriff John Brooks sent to Suwannee Shoals, where with local officers, took McClain into custody and returned him to the Traders Hill jail. There he remained a prisoner for
five years, until his trial in January 1884, in the log courthouse at Traders Hill.
At that trial in the crowded tiny log courthouse at Traders Hill, Judge M. L. Mershon sentenced McClain to death by hanging. McClain was to be housed in the Chatham County jail
until the day of the hanging. The date of the hanging was set for March 7, 1884, McClain's 44th birthday.
Mershon ordered The Charlton County Commission to build gallows on the lands of Sheriff Brooks from which to hang McClain. The orders were carried out, and the gallows were
reported to be ready just days ahead of the scheduled hanging.
County work crews repaired the road off Tracy Ferry Road, leading to the gallows. The commissioners knew there would be a crowd to witness the hanging. The hanging would take
place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
On that fateful day, crowds gathered early near the gallows. The family of McClain's victim, William F. Saxon, pushed their way to the front of the gallows. One person however,
was not to be found on the day of the hanging. Sheriff John Brooks could not bear to see his friend, McClain, die at the end of a rope. Brooks left Traders Hill on the day of the hanging and commissioned deputies to carry out the order of
the court. He returned late in the evening, several hours after McClain had paid with his life the penalty demanded by the law. Friends said it would be days before Sheriff Brooks shook off his depression.
The body of McClain was cut down from the gallows, and taken to the Traders Hill Cemetery for burial. The crowd began to break up, and as night fell, Traders Hill was again its
usual quiet place. The day of excitement was over.
That hanging at Traders Hill, then Charlton County's seat of government, came just twenty years after the end of the Civil War. McClain, twenty-one when the war began, apparently
never served in that tragic war but remained with his family in Charlton County throughout the war years.
Today the crumbled cement headstone of David McClain lies at the foot of a scrub oak tree in the Traders Hill Cemetery. Nearby the headstones of other McClain family
members, also broken, lie beneath the shade of the scrub oak trees, silent witnesses to the last hanging at Traders Hill. The gallows used then were quickly taken down and stored. They were never used again.
John Brooks, a gentle man, did not offer for re-election that year. Brooks stepped
down from the Sheriff's office, tired of the rigor of his office. He never recovered from the loss of a friend that he had made with daily trips for five years to the stockade-jail to carry McClain's meals to him.
|22. New Years Day, 1938, finds Charlton jailer, Pratt Mizell, murdered.
1928 Photo shows popular Charlton Jailer, Pratt Mizell who was murdered on January 1, 1938 by jail escapee. Sheriff Sikes and posse capture murderer. Other photo is of
long-time Sheriffs W. H. Mizell (1910 until 1933) and J. O. Sikes (1933 until 1965)
[No Photos were found with this article--ALH]
Saturday, January 1, 1938: Nearly 10 million Americans are out of work as the Great Depression continues. In Charlton County football fans are looking toward the
afternoon radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, California between California and Alabama.
On Folkston's Main Street, few businesses are closed for the New Years' holiday. Inside the Charlton County jail a 28-year-old prisoner, Walter Melton, waits his chance to escape.
There are only four prisoners in the jail and Sheriff Jim Sikes is deer hunting. Fifty-eight year-old part-time jailer Pratt Grooms Mizell had promised Sikes he would serve the prisoners their lunch after it was prepared by Mrs. Sikes at
Mizell, a prominent Charlton County farmer, had begun a $25 dollars-a-month part-time job as custodian at the county courthouse, a position he had taken only 3 months earlier.
Dutifully, Mizell tells visitors at the courthouse that it is time for him to feed the four prisoners, as he had promised Sheriff Sikes.
What Mizell does not know however, is Melton, although in jail for stealing $40 dollars and a shotgun from a home in Moniac, has a long history of prison sentences, and is
desperate for freedom.
Mizell serves three of the prisoners their meals in one part of the jail, and enters another cellblock, separated from the first three prisoners, to feed Melton. Melton feigns problems with a toilet, and asks Mizell to help him fix it. Mizell goes into the cellblock to help, and is jumped by the prisoner, who knocks Mizell to the jail floor, and ties his hands behind his back.
The prisoner stuffs rags into Mizell's mouth, and ties a blanket tightly over his head and dashes from the jail.
Mrs. Sikes, downstairs in the jail, hears the cries of the other three prisoners and telephones a brother-in-law, J. O. Hannaford, Sr. who is working two blocks away at Gowen
Brothers Store, for help. Hannaford runs to the jail and finds the lifeless body of Pratt Mizell in the escaped prisoner's cell, the cell door is wide open, and the prisoner is gone.
Sheriff Sikes, whom Mrs. Sikes has sent for in his hunting party, comes quickly and organizes a search posse for the escaped Melton. One of the largest manhunts in the history of
the county follows.
On the following day, a Moniac resident, named Privett, becomes suspicious when a man he meets walking near Hopkins Bridge, asks directions to Moniac, and then turns and walks in
the opposite direction. Privett goes to Walter Hopkins with the information.
Hopkins gets the information quickly to Folkston to Sheriff Sikes. The large posse converges on the area near Hopkins Bridge. Sikes, along with Brantley Sheriff Raulerson and
Folkston Police Chief, Troy Jones, form themselves into a separate three-man posse with two bloodhounds.
On Monday, the bloodhounds lead Sikes, Jones and Raulerson to Boulogne, Florida, where they spot Melton sleeping by a fire near the railroad tracks. The barking of the
bloodhounds awakens Melton who, without his shoes, flees into nearby woods. The three officers soon catch up with the fleeing Melton and take him into custody, returning him to the Folkston jail, the site of Melton's murderous act just two
Melton, after months of legal maneuvering, was sentenced to death for the murder of Pratt Mizell.
The tragic death of Pratt Mizell enrages all of Charlton County. Mizell was a unanimously popular farmer. The capture of his killer brings on relief from residents of Charlton
County, many whom had gone without sleep for two nights while Mizell's killer was on the loose.
Charlton County at that time had seen only two sheriffs since 1910. Sheriff W. H. Mizell served from 1910 until unseated by J. O. Sikes in the same election that saw Franklin
Roosevelt elected to the White House over Herbert Hoover. Sikes began his duties as Sheriff on January 1, 1933, and served until dying in office thirty years later. Never in the history of the county had a Sheriff or his deputy been killed
in the line of duty until the death of Pratt Mizell on January 1, 1938.
The now-closed Charlton County jail holds the history of those tragic moments of that fateful Saturday morning when America was looking forward to a great new year, 1938.
For the Pratt Mizell family the promise of a great new year was marred by the untimely death of one of the county's most popular residents.
|23. Sutherland Murdered in Okefenokee Swamp
Nineteen Forty-Seven was an unusual year for Charlton County. Folkston High School fielded its first football team, the Folkston Indians. Arthur Prochaski, tennis
professional, was hired as the team's first football coach. Most World War Two veterans had returned home and were working into jobs as close to home as possible.
However, it was in mid-July of 1947 that Charlton County and its Okefenokee Swamp burst into the headlines. It was murder in a small log cabin inside the swamp.
It all began when a cattle farmer of the area in the Okefenokee, while rounding up strays, noticed a dozen buzzards soaring over a dilapidated old shack in the wooded patch near his pastures. He decided to
investigate. He pushed open the door of the shack and stepped back in horror.
Inside was the skull and parts of a skeleton; wild hogs and the buzzards had devoured the body. The cattle farmer hurried into Folkston and to the county jail where Sheriff Jim
Sikes lived. It was Sunday afternoon.
Sikes gathered up some deputies and rushed to the scene. Sikes examined the remains and placed them into a casket.
Sikes, who had the ability to draw testimony from usually recalcitrant witnesses, began to question people of the area.
They knew the victim, Myron (Dick) Sutherland, a Jacksonville, Florida resident who worked in a tool and die company there for $145 dollars a week, a handsome salary in 1947.
Sutherland often took a break on weekends to target shoot in the edge of the Okefenokee He was known by his friends as a mild-mannered man who had two hobbies; playing tennis and collecting and shooting expensive firearms.
Sheriff Sikes' questions bore fruit. Sutherland often went to the cabin early in the morning. Few residents ever recalled him driving into the swamp at the early hour.
Several, however, knew him and remembered his car leaving the swamp on that Sunday. Only one fact differed. Sutherland was not driving Sutherland's car. A man with flaming red hair was driving it. Most of those questioned knew Sutherland by sight. His visits to the Okefenokee had been going on for quite some months.
Sikes soon pieced the puzzle together. That same night he drove to the Jacksonville Police Headquarters, following a hearse that contained the remains of Sutherland. Laboratory
tests and dental records on the remains verified the victim's identity. He had been shot to death. Jacksonville police helping Sikes were detectives R. B. Whittington, H. V. (Tiny) Branch, and L. S. Eddins.
Sutherland had a girl friend in Jacksonville. Sikes and the Jacksonville officers made their way to her home. She was devastated by the story of Sutherland's death.
Questioning of the girl friend, revealed Sutherland had met a man named Wayne Woodruff at a social gathering in Jacksonville just weeks earlier. Woodruff had struck up a
conversation with Sutherland about guns, and asked to accompany him to the Okefenokee on a weekend to target practice. Woodruff even offered to pay for the gasoline. Sutherland patted his billfold and replied that would not be necessary.
He always carried several hundred dollars on his person, he told Woodruff.
Sikes and the officers began looking for Woodruff. Sutherland's car was found abandoned on Washington Street in Jacksonville, filled with telltale fingerprints of Wayne Woodruff.
Following the trail the officers found out Woodruff had stolen several valuable guns of Sutherland and sold them for a fraction of their value. Woodruff was now running scared.
The officers found out Woodruff and his wife had taken a bus to El Paso, Texas. Hurriedly Sikes and the Jacksonville homicide detectives called police in El Paso, asking them to
be on the lookout for Woodruff. Two El Paso detectives met Woodruff and his wife at the bus station. They were carrying several of Sutherland's guns when they gave up without incident to the El Paso detectives. It had been exactly eight
days after Sutherland's death when his killer was taken into custody. Woodruff had killed Sutherland for his money; several hundred dollars, his car and his guns.
Woodruff made a full and complete confession of the murder to El Paso police. Sheriff Jim Sikes and a deputy drove to El Paso to return Woodruff to Charlton County to face trial
for the murder of his newfound friend, Dick Sutherland.
In Charlton County during the trial in 1947, excitement reigned. Woodruff was found guilty of murder and sentenced to die in Georgia's electric chair. There was no recommendation
Before the sentence could be carried out and Woodruff executed, some Jacksonville friends of Woodruff had hired skilled Jacksonville lawyers to represent Woodruff and attempt to
block the execution. The lawyer's efforts proved successful. Woodruff's sentence was commuted to life in prison. A few years afterward, Woodruff was paroled from a Georgia prison and was back in Jacksonville, a free man.
The excitement of the trial in Folkston filled the courtroom with visitors. Sheriff Sikes would bring the prisoner from the Charlton County jail to the courthouse every day of the trial. Numbers of onlookers
around the courthouse craned for a look at the man that killed Dick Sutherland in that Okefenokee cabin on a Sunday in mid-July of 1947.
|24. Main Street, Folkston, Georgia
Photos, made around 1915, shows Folkston's Main Street, looking east. Courthouse at end of street burned in 1927. Streets were sand, and a hog can be faintly seen at left. Large white building at right was Bank of Folkston building.
Movie, Swamp Girl, premiered at Folkston's Topper Theater in 1971
Photo shows Jack Mays, right, and starlet in film Swamp Girl during activities in front of Folkston's Topper Theater for premier of movie Swamp Girl in 1971.
Swamp Girl was filmed in the Okefenokee and featured country music singer, Ferlin Husky. The film had disappointing reviews.
In 1971, a Hollywood movie company began filming in the Okefenokee Swamp south of Folkston., It was producing a movie to be titled "Swamp Girl" starring Country Music
Singer, Ferlin Husky.
The film was to be a low-budget, Class B production, but was expected to make a profit for the producers.
Filming took only a few weeks as cast and crew entered the Okefenokee at what was then called "Camp Cornelia" at the Suwannee Canal entrance into the huge wilderness
area. Each day the stars and cameramen probed into the swamp dutifully going through the script. Finally, the filming was over and the performers and camera crew put it in the cans.
It would premier in Folkston, Georgia at the Topper Theater on the town's Main Street. Promotions and local conversation excited the residents as the time of the first
A Low-Boy trailer was pulled up on the street just in front of the theater's front doors. Loudspeakers were set up and country music performers began strumming their
guitars as locals gathered around. It was to be the town's first movie premier, and the townspeople meant to make the most of it.
Onto the trailer came the movie's star, Ferlin Husky, who immediately began to sing one of his famous songs, "On the wings of a dove." The crowd around the trailer-stage
leaned forward, enjoying every word from Husky's mouth. The town's Chamber of Commerce Director, Jack Mays, acting as Master of Ceremonies, introduced the female stars of the movie and the show was on.
Locals crowded into the Topper Theater for the premier performance. It was disappointing, the actors and actresses gave poor performances, reciting their lines
like they were reading from the script. There were few praises to be heard, even though Husky's singing brought a few.
Little was heard of Swamp Girl, it never made the big time list of movies, but those there for its Premier will never forget the town's first and only movie premier.
Young Boys and Girls Grew Up Quickly in Charlton During World War Two
By Jack Mays
When World War Two erupted in Europe in September 1939, America began mobilizing its manpower and equipment in the event the United States was drawn into it.
It didn't take long. On December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft borne bombers unleashed its sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. America was jolted into the War and Congress declared War
the following day, December 8, 1941.
However, America had been busy preparing for a possible war months earlier. The draft was instituted and defense plants cranked up all through the nation building ships, tanks,
airplanes and guns.
Those preparations, especially the military draft, began to siphon off America's young men. This was the case in Charlton County as busload after busload of conscripts headed for
induction centers in Atlanta and Columbus.
John Harris, Charlton County's steel-minded School Superintendent was forced to change his way of hiring people to run the schools. Harris had adamantly refused to hire unmarried
females as schoolteachers, and he was forced to turn to older high school students to help drive the county's school busses.
The student-drivers eagerly took on their new jobs. They got to leave classes early and to
report late. The young student-drivers performed like veterans. The regularly hired adult drivers took a liking to the young drivers, inviting them into their near-sacred school bus barn
near the school buildings, to hear their crusty stories of the early history of Charlton County.
The war brought lots of changes in
Charlton County as the young men of the county anxiously volunteered for military service. Women were forced into unfamiliar roles, many from Charlton County helping to build Victory Ships at the J. A. Jones Construction Company
Shipyard in Brunswick and at several Jacksonville, Florida shipyards.
The schools organized scrap and rubber drives with automobile dealer P. O. Stokes heading up the project. Tons of metal and rubber were scrounged from every section of the
county, some new as the eager students competed for their respective classes for pounds raised. The stave mill of George Gowen, Sr. in Folkston near the railroad depot saw Gowen's metal barrel hoops disappear only to show
up on the school scrap pile.
Among the very young, it was a time of unbridled excitement. Jobs began to pay a living wage and were
plentiful. Young school students began to man jobs previously held by the older men. The railroad telegraph tower in Folkston saw some 15-year-olds handing up train orders to the
steam locomotives and cabooses and then running upstairs in the tower to pound out a report on the telegraph key or railroad telephone.
Young volunteers manned the aircraft spotting post on top of the Charlton County Courthouse, reporting passing planes by telephone to centers in Jacksonville. Young male
volunteer spotters approached the job with a feeling of monotony…. until Air Raid Warden Charlie Adkins decided to make the job co-ed, using young girls and young boys to fill the
posts. Absenteeism among the spotters almost completely disappeared. The spotting center sometimes saw volunteers reporting hours before their shifts. It was almost a nightly party on
top of the stately old courthouse. The founders of the county would have stared in disbelief had they seen the young girls and boy spotters dancing barefoot to Glenn Miller's swing blaring out of a portable radio.
Few youngsters had automobiles at their homes. Fewer could use them if they did. Rationed
gasoline and tires cramped the styles of those that did. Almost exclusively the young used bicycles to get around the town.
In a few years, the youngsters had "gone to war". Many never to return, killed in battle action before they reached their 19th birthday. None were afraid of dying. That would only happen to
someone else, they thought. Nineteen from Charlton County never returned alive; killed in battle action in Italy, France, and on a score of Pacific Islands. a More still returned with legs amputated and crippling injuries.
Charlton County during those war years was not without recreation spots. Doctor Adrian Dallas Williams, who had come to Folkston in 1906 and was a patriotic zealot, spearheaded
a weekly dance on Thursday evenings in an abandoned CCC log cabin in Homeland Park. Square dances saw local couples, young and old alike, swinging their partners to the loud
fiddle music of Sol Higginbotham and his musicians of Nassau County. There were no electric lights at the old clubhouse. A gasoline driven generator powered a string of light
bulbs hanging from the ceiling of the building. The music was so loud it needed no loudspeakers.
A few taverns, or juke joints operated in the area, serving up Jax Beer for a dime and White
Port Wine at 50 cents a half-pint to those who wanted it. One was Uptonville Camp in the Uptonville Community on the busy Dixie Highway. Another was Piney Breeze located
between Folkston and the Florida line. They became favorite watering holes for some from the Folkston area.
Those changes swept in during the early 1940s as America prepared for war; a war that would come on December 7, 1941 and last until August of 1945. The youngsters that
survived grew up, most returning home to re-start their lives. Today with those veterans of World War Two dying at around 40,000 each month, few care to think back to the bad days
of that war. The better times of scrap drives and airplane watches atop the Charlton County Courthouse, and dances in Homeland Park, are remembered much more fondly. ~ End ~
Folkston, At the End of World War I, Fought For Progress
Photograph shows Folkston's Main Street, looking west toward the Charlton County Courthouse around 1920. The photo is of poor quality, but a close look will show a hog at the
lower left, the Rodgers Building (now Folkston Pharmacy) and at the far left end, the Folkston Post Office in the two-story home. The first courthouse is at the extreme right. It burned in 1927.
The year was 1920; World War One had just ended in Europe. Charlton County veterans were still being mustered out of service and returning to their homes. Folkston's population
was just under 400 and the small town was pushing hard for progress. It was the "Roaring Twenties" and Charlton County wanted to be a part of the parade.
On Folkston's Main Street, still unpaved, huddled most of the town's business houses. Jack
Davis had a General Store built on the site of the burned-down Roddenberry Hotel. Davis also had built two smaller stores adjoining his main building. One would house a drug store,
Folkston Pharmacy, operated at one time by the town's physician, Dr. Adrian Dallas Williams. At the east end of the block stood the new Charlton County Courthouse, built in
1901. A two-story dwelling, on the north side of Main Street housed the Folkston Post Office.
Farm animals roamed at will along the town's streets, dodging the few Model T Fords owned by locals. The Charlton County Sheriff was W. H. Mizell, who had held the job since 1904.
Mizell was, according to legend, was a gentle man, but married to his job as Sheriff. He would hold the position until 1932, twenty-eight years. The Charlton County jail was located just behind the courthouse.
In 1920, Folkston had but one bank, The Citizens Bank, organized in 1911 by William Mizell, Sr., B. G. McDonald and Ben Scott. The bank was located in Scott's Arnold Hotel west of
the railroad tracks. Scott was the President.
In addition, in 1920 there was talk about the new Dixie Highway being paved to south Florida. Folkston wanted the highway to pass through the town and organized a Better Roads
Committee, dedicated to persuade highway engineers and politicians to come around to their way of thinking. The original proposal had the new highway passing 75 miles to the west of Folkston.
The Charlton County Commissioners, in tune with the progressive movement voted to put up $50,000 dollars of county money toward paving the highway through the county. Mizell
bought the bonds and the money was turned over to the State Highway Department. The generous gesture turned the trick. The state was impressed by the commitment of Charlton
County and decided to pave the Dixie Highway right through the middle of Folkston. Few in the county objected to the county making the financial contribution.
The 1920s proved one of the town's best years. In 1925 and 1926, most of the business houses on the south side of Main Street were built, including Dean and Gowen Hardware,
and the Masonic Building. The town was alive and jumping as the Roaring Twenties continued.
The railroads, expanding into the Florida land boom, put on extra passenger trains as northerners rushed through Folkston on their way to south Florida. A number of Folkston
residents entered the contracting business, helping to build the rail lines into the booming state of Florida.
H. C. Page, Folkston railroad stationmaster worked late into the night, handling ticket sales
and unloading passengers. Page had an almost paternal attitude toward his job. He thought he should be at his job in the depot building when every passenger train stopped.
Newcomers arrived in Folkston almost on a daily basis, to settle and set up shop in the growing town. W. H. Robinson and his wife came into town to buy a business. They bought
the Charlton County Herald newspaper, and she ran it for years.
Dr. J. W. Buchanan arrived in the 1920s from Wooster, Ohio with his pockets loaded with money. He excited the community with his novel developments; Dixie Lake, The Dixie Lake
Dairy, and the Folkston Airport. Buchanan brought in experts to help him. He imported a native of The Netherlands to run his dairy, and barnstorming airplane pilots to fly planes out
of the Folkston Airport. A hurricane destroyed Buchanan's Dixie Lake and a wildfire swept through his airplane hangar. Locals blamed Buchanan's wrecked Dixie Lake with breeding
mosquitoes that they thought caused a local Malaria epidemic. Buchanan's dreams turned sour. His money depleted and his dreams shattered, the broken Ohio physician became almost a recluse before his death.
Folkston's young enjoyed the prosperity. One businessman hired a brass band to play at the local semi-pro baseball games on Sunday afternoons. Other communities in the county also
got in on the building boom of the 20s. In Winokur, N. G. Wade, Sr., built a hotel and several store buildings as he brought trees from the forest to be turned into crossties for the rapidly expanding railroads.
Throughout most of the 1920s it was a time of excitement and growth. The locals "let the good times roll." Enter October 1929…. the bubble burst. The Florida boom turned sour as
Wall Street crashed and the nation's greatest Depression followed for the next ten years.
During most of the decade of the 20s, Folkston and Charlton County had built up a head of steam that would see the locals through the dark years of the 1930s. Many businesses
changed hands as some of the merchants ran out of money, but others kept the doors open and tightened their belts. The buildings constructed in the booming 1920s had given Folkston the start it needed to join in the nation's progress.
Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" swept onto the stage in the mid-1930s, as CCC Camps, The National Recovery Act, WPA
Programs and others propped up the local economy. The hard days of the 1930s
went down more easily because of the sweet 1920s.
|28. City of Folkston took pride in its Volunteer Fire Department in the 1950s.
Photo shows City of Folkston Police Station and Fire Station as it looked in the early 1950s. The Department got no budget from the city, but raised its own money with suppers,
donations, and dances. Then-Folkston Mayor Scott Johnson began bringing the Fire Department into the 20th Century. The Police Department building was later torn down and
a combination City-Hall Fire Department was built in the 1960s. Note the old City Jail standing underneath the water tower. Few city prisoners needed to be locked up in that small cubicle with no water or sanitary facilities.
By Jack Mays
Until about 1950, The City of Folkston's Fire Department consisted of three
large reels of fire hose on rolling carts stored in three small metal buildings in the town. When the town's fire alarm would sound (a siren atop a power pole on Main Street)
volunteers would run to these little buildings, pull out the big-wheeled cart full of hose, and wait for someone with an automobile to pull up, open the car trunk and allow a
fireman to climb inside and pull the hose reel to the scene of the fire. Only a few fire hydrants existed inside the town, and more often than not, the fire did not occur within
reach of a fire hydrant. In that case, the firemen stood helplessly by while the structure burned to the ground. There was no water tanker truck available.
In the 1950s, Folkston Mayor B. Scott Johnson fought for an improved fire
department. Johnson had the city build concrete block stalls for fire trucks, and talked the Folkston City Council into spending $12,000 dollars to buy a new Mack Pumper
Fire Truck. Tanker trucks were found in Government Surplus Warehouses, and put into use fighting fires outside the reach of fire hydrants.
Mayor Johnson also had no City Hall. The mayor and council met in the
offices of the Charlton County Commission in the county courthouse. Johnson eyed the little outhouse-looking police station at the corner of Main Street and U. S. 1 and
ordered it moved onto First Street beneath the city's water tower. That little police cubicle had served as the town's Police Headquarters for years. A red light was
mounted atop a utility pole near the little Police Station. When someone telephoned the Police Department, the red light began blinking, and the town's lone Policeman
would rush to the station to answer the call. Then, the Policeman owned his own car. There was no city-owned police car.
Mayor Scott Johnson was embarrassed by the Rube Goldberg operations of
the city Police and Fire Department. He set about to bring the services into the 20th Century, often in the face of criticism from city residents. The town's first traffic signal
was hanging at the intersection of the Kingsland Highway and Third Street. It was built my Folkston Mayor Charlie Passieu, using a discarded 5 gallon oil can, cutting out
holes for a single yellow light, and used a Christmas Tree Blinker to make the signal turn off and on.
These crude city services tore at the progressive heartstrings of Mayor
Johnson. The amiable mayor began a massive reform program to remove the embarrassing city operations. A single employee, Lee Lloyd, tended the city's water system. At that time there was no sanitary sewer system. Cesspools were
everywhere, and during rainy seasons, the stench downtown became almost unbearable.
Johnson personally oversaw the construction of the new fire stalls, and
commissioned Volunteer Fireman Lewis Wade to take bids on a new Mack Pumper. Wade found it in Jacksonville and personally drove the shiny new fire truck back to Folkston.
Firemen began a celebration when the new truck arrived. They spruced up the
new fire station, lined up their new vehicles and immediately began plans for a "Fireman's Ball" to raise money to buy fire hose. Johnson celebrated right along with
the firemen, setting up a fish fry for the volunteers on the night of the truck's arrival.
At that time when someone reported a fire, firemen rushed to the new fire
station, and the first to arrive drove the fire truck to the scene of the fire. A blackboard was erected in the firehouse where the fireman wrote in chalk the location of the fire
was located, so that following firemen would know where to go to help put out the fire. The system actually worked quite well. The volunteers were made up by Ray Gibson,
a worker in a nearby clothing store, barber Donald Prescott, located next door, E. B. Stapleton, Jr., in the family drug store on Main Street, Post Office employee Dick
Mays, his brother, Jack, and Police Chief Harold Barfield. Others were James Altman, Bennie Smith, Lewis Wade and others.
That Fire Department became the pride of the town. The members, without
budgeted funds, raised money to buy the latest fire fighting equipment and to maintain their trucks. Merchants in the town dug heavily in their pockets when the firemen solicited funds.
Scott Johnson's chest swelled with pride as he watched the fire department
win favor with the townspeople. Then Johnson began renovating the tiny City Hall building that formerly was a Police Station. Folkston moved its City Clerk, Hiram
Altman, from the courthouse into the new City Hall, and the little town was off and running. Altman prepared the City's first budget and personally pushed the town into modernization.
However, Scott Johnson's City Fire Department proved the catalyst of massive
changes in the way the city government operated. The town bought its own Police Car and discontinued using the Policeman's personal car. Other, more modern traffic
signals were installed, and the city's water and sanitation crew was expanded. The people of the town began to like all the changes.
Several years later Folkston built a new City Hall building, used as a
combination-meeting place for Fire Meetings and City Hall Operations. That building was used until the present structure was built under the administration of Mayor Ray James.
Today the 1950s model Mack Pumper is still owned by the City of Folkston,
although not used as a County Fire Department has taken over the responsibilities formerly filled by a municipal fire department.
There should be a bronze plaque somewhere near the Folkston City hall,
attesting to the progressive efforts of the late B. Scott Johnson, who awakened the people of the town to a better way of life.
Railroad Strikers Make Lemonade of Lemons In the 1920s
Old Folkston railroad telegraph tower from which many went out on strike.
When life handed them a lemon, they made lemonade. Just after the turn of the 20th
Century, the railroad unions called a crippling strike. It was a bitter strike with labor and management pulling out all the stops to win their points. Many longtime railroad
workers in Charlton County were affected by the walkout. Soon it became a "lockout" when the railroad managers called in strikebreakers, or scabs, as they were called, to
break the backs of the unions. The lockout proved successful and those who walked out on strike never returned to their railroad jobs.
In Folkston and Charlton County, numbers of former railroad workers were forced to find other jobs. They did. In subsequent years most became successful businessmen,
never regretting giving up their jobs with the railroads.
One became Postmaster at Racepond. Shelton M. Howard opened a small grocery store-post office in the little community. There he and his family became valuable
community leaders, all the while prospering as hard work and long hours paid dividends. Howard became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Charlton County
schools, and in later years built several commercial buildings in Folkston, which he leased or sold to others. His son, Osworth Howard, followed in his dad's footsteps,
becoming a telegraph operator with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and later moving up to become a Dispatcher, an important position, in the Waycross railroad offices.
Another to go out on that strike was R. A. Boyd, Sr. He found responsible jobs as bookkeeper for William Mizell's Reliance Chevrolet Company in Folkston, and later
moved into a similar position with Mizell's Citizens Bank. Before his retirement, Boyd had reached the position of vice-president of the Folkston bank. The former telegrapher
became a landmark inside Mizell's bank, chewing on the ever-present cigar and looking after the bank's business. Boyd also, never regretted the move into the
community's business life and away from the click and clacks of the telegraph keys.
Still another who changed occupations because of the strike was Jim Purdom, also a telegrapher. He and his wife opened Folkston's Dixie Restaurant at the west corner of
Main Street, which was then the Dixie Highway.
Photo shows old Dixie Restaurant as it looked in the 1920s. It became a Folkston
That Dixie Restaurant soon became the most popular restaurant in the town; back then serving a full four-course meal for fifty cents. Mrs. Purdom employed scores of
young Folkston girls to work as waitresses in her restaurant in the 1920s. Her brother-in-law, "Happy" Smith, had also lost his railroad job as a result of the strike.
Smith, and later his son, Everett, became Charlton County Superior Court Clerks. Purdom and Smith never looked back. Life had handed them lemonade and they had turned it into lemonade.
Mrs. Purdom's Dixie Restaurant became a landmark for motorist entering Folkston on the Dixie Highway. It was right on the curve where the highway made its easterly turn
through the downtown Folkston area. The restaurant was later to be operated by Leon and Mary Askew in the 1930s. They hired a young black youth, Buttercup Bolden, to
wear a white suit and hold a sign in the air, soliciting business for Mrs. Askew's restaurant. The tactic proved more than successful. Cars packed the limited parking
area each day at breakfast and lunch to enjoy the home cooking. In later years S. M. Altman, Jr. and his family operated a restaurant in the building.
In later years, the building was occupied as a dry cleaning business by the Jennings Haddock family, and later by the M. J. Chancey family. Today it is occupied as a part
of Big John Trailers.
Back at the turn of the 20th Century when those men turned from their railroad jobs to other vocations, there was never a dismal thought in their minds. They went on to
other successful careers and to become valuable leaders of the community. The lemonade they had made from the lemons they were handed got sweeter each day.
World War Two Draftees Left From Folkston Bus Depot, Dozens At a Time
Photo shows combination Gulf Station and Greyhound bus station in Folkston
where locals left for wartime service.
Woodrow Pickren's Folkston Greyhound bus depot was usually a pretty quiet place. Except for about twice a month during the years of World War Two, 1942 through 1945. Then it was
the scene of heart-breaking farewells as wives and mothers sent their sons and husbands off to fight in that war, often dozens at a time.
Draftees that had begun their paperwork right across the street in Dick Stroup's Sinclair Service Station were now leaving home. Some never to return. Dick Stroup, who owned the
Sinclair station, was clerk of the Charlton County Draft Board during the war years.
Many of those leaving from Pickren's bus station had never even ridden a bus before; some had never been outside the states of Georgia and Florida. Usually the draftees had not
reached their 19th birthday, and most were unmarried; at least during the early years of that war.
Pickren's combination bus station-Gulf station, for years had been on the leading edge of
new merchandising techniques. The owner, Woodrow Pickren, always was looking forward. He opened Folkston's first Firestone Store in the station, selling Arvin radios, automobile heaters, electric toasters, and dozens of other items of merchandise not to be found elsewhere in town. During the years of the Great Depression,
Pickren put free comic books on his gas pumps for the young of the community. A 50-gallon drum filled with re-claimed motor oil sat nearby. It sold for 15 cents a quart and
was pumped out of the barrel with a hand pump by the customers into a half-gallon pitcher-container with a flexible spout.
When the young draftees got their orders from the draft board to report, usually to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, a date for their appearance at the bus station was enclosed. A
volunteer draft board worker was there too; orders in hand to make sure all got aboard the Atlanta-bound bus. Parents and girlfriends embraced the soon-to-be soldiers and sailors as
the big Greyhound bus arrived at the front of Pickren's Gulf Station. One of the draftees, usually an older man, was named to oversee the draftee's enroute to Fort McPherson.
Reports coming back often told of boisterous behavior once the bus had pulled out of Folkston. The soon-to-be soldiers and sailors were on their own, many for the first time. Most had never shaved.
Pickren's bus station was a centerpiece of activity in the town. Pickren had a busy automobile repair shop in addition to the bus station and Firestone store, and next door was
the town's most popular restaurant, the Blue Willow, and in later years, the Whip-O-Will. A familiar site was the owner, Woodrow Pickren and his best friend, Hercules Superintendent
Charlie Quick, swapping jokes near the Gulf gas pumps. The laughter of both could be heard a block away.
Pickren's father, Tom Pickren, had once run a grocery store on the site before the automobile service station was built. For years Tom Pickren had the only long-distance
telephone line in Folkston. Other merchants would go to Tom Pickren's store to make their long distance calls. Woodrow Pickren and his brother, Verne J. Pickren, at one time jointly
operated the service station. Later Woodrow Pickren became the sole owner of the business, although the real estate was still owned by Verne J. Pickren.
At the end of World War Two, Woodrow Pickren built a new bus station-restaurant at the corner of Kingsland Drive, just across from the Folkston High School building. Today the
building is occupied as Cumberland Gas Company. But, the new bus station never held the nostalgia ingrained in the old building. The dark depression years saw Pickren's Gulf
Station as a ray of sunshine, where the troubles of the day could be briefly forgotten. Woodrow Pickren was a confirmed optimist; every cloud was to have dozens of rainbows, in
his view. That optimism rubbed off on those who happened by and listened a few minutes to Woodrow Pickren talk. He just made everyone feel better.
Just after World War Two ended, Woodrow Pickren thought Folkston should have a championship caliber independent basketball team. He set about to organize one. He made
trips to Jacksonville to hire top-notch former college players for his Folkston team. Johnny Geilan, who coached Jacksonville Junior College basketball, and a former star with St.
Johns University, was brought on board. Ray Greife, another top not former college star; in Jacksonville coaching another high school team, was hired to join Geilen. A half-dozen
locals, including a Baptist preacher, Robert T. Jones, made up Pickren's team. It was almost unbeatable, even if it did cost Pickren hundreds of dollars for their game pay.
Such a man was Woodrow Pickren, a man inflicted with Polio when in his youth, who could only see the brighter side of every issue. He refused to let his crippling disease keep him
from engaging in every worthwhile cause to come his way. It seems fitting that the bus station from which scores left for battle in World War Two was operated by Woodrow
Pickren. He even made leaving home more bearable, as he usually was at his bus station when the draftee's bus loaded for Atlanta, joking and telling the scared youths that they didn't have a thing to worry about. Most believed him.
|31. Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, had Charlton County Roots.
Gene Roddenberry, creator of one of this century's most popular television series, Star Trek, had Charlton County roots, and never forgot that heritage as the popularity of his
space-age television show skyrocketed.
Author, David Alexander, in his The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, spelled out those connections on page 10 of his biography.
Gene Roddenberry's grandparents were Leon and Clara May Roddenberry. Their third child, Edward Eugene, was the father of the Star Trek creator, and was born in Charlton County to
Leon and Clara May Roddenberry.
Referring to the birth in Charlton County of Eugene Edward the father of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, author David Alexander wrote: "His parents, Leon and Clara May
Roddenberry were married in 1892. They lived in Folkston, Georgia and supposedly had a child every other year straight through to 1900. The second child, Clara Mae, died in infancy. Eugene Edward (Gene's father) was their third child".
"In 1907, Leon died at the age of forty, leaving Clara with little education and a family to raise. " She sought solace in a bottle and the family dissolved. Eugene and his
youngest brother, Hilbert, were sent to live across the state line in a north Florida orphanage."
After a year, the two children were taken out of the orphanage, but the family was never fully reunited.
Gene's father eventually found his way to El Paso, Texas, where he became a part the U. S. Army's buildup of 5,000 troopers along the border, chasing Pancho Villa. It was there
that Star Trek's creator; Eugene Wesley Roddenberry was born in 1921.
In the early 1960s, Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator visited a family reunion on the banks of the St. Marys River at Traders Hill. Roddenberry, among his relatives, retraced
those early days in Charlton County of his grandparents, Leon and Clara May, who had picked up their marriage license in a log courthouse at Traders Hill, then the county seat of Charlton County. At that time, his television series, Star
Trek was at the height of its popularity.
When Leon and Clara May Roddenberry were married in 1892, Traders Hill, the seat of government of Charlton County, was already beginning to decline. Talk circulated that people in
the county wanted to move the county seat to Folkston near the railroad lines, which had recently been laid through the town. Traders Hill, tied to only river transportation on the St. Marys River, was beginning to die as a center of
Gene Roddenberry, at that Roddenberry family reunion in the 1960, spoke about those early days of his grandparents at Traders Hill, and of the challenges of his grandmother trying
to raise the children, including his father, alone, after losing her husband, Leon, at age 40.
Gene Roddenberry never returned to Charlton County after that visit. His career as producer of the Star Trek TV series was demanding more and more of his time. There was little
time for visiting.
Roddenberry died in 1991. His widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, followed her husband's wishes. Gene Roddenberry was cremated and the ashes launched into space aboard an orbiting
satellite. One day, the satellite will drop into the earth's atmosphere and will be destroyed, along with the ashes of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, whose roots went back to the river landing at Traders Hill.
Gene Roddenberry, his career and his ties to Charlton County will long be remembered as a part of Charlton County's colorful 20th Century.
|32. Did O'Cain leave buried treasure behind?
Photo shows Leonard O'Cain's fish market on Main Street in Folkston. Standing
around, gawking at the "Goatman," are many of Folkston's top business leaders. The floor of the fish market was thought to contain O'Cain's fortune.
From the early years of the 20th Century in Folkston, a legend developed. Leonard O'Cain, the town's "do everything" fish monger, ran his tiny fish market on the town's
main street and did about anything else the town fathers and businessmen asked. He had migrated to Charlton County from the north, just after the turn of the century.
In 1912, when locals organized and opened the Citizens Bank, O'Cain was called upon to move a massive iron safe into the bank offices in what are now the law offices
of John Adams and Kelly Brooks. Then it was the ground floor of Ben Scott's Arnold Hotel, named for Scott's young son, Arnold.
O'Cain gathered up a couple of helpers and moved the massive safe into the bank. It would serve as the bank's vault. O'Cain did just about everything Folkston
businessmen asked. Just after the laborious task of setting up the bank's vault, locals learned that O'Cain had been charged in New York State with Peonage, charges
stemming from forcing men to work to pay off their debt to him. The charges were later dropped.
O'Cain married a Charlton County girl, Genia Roddenberry, the young daughter of Johnny Roddenberry. Roddenberry owned the Roddenberry Hotel on Folkston's Main
Street. In 1912, at the age of 42, O'Cain's young wife died of cancer before reaching her 42nd birthday. O'Cain and her parents sent her to the best medical facilities available at the time in an effort to save her life.
O'Cain mourned his young wife's death, and never remarried. He went about his business, working with logging crews in the Okefenokee, and later opening a tiny fish
market on Folkston's Main Street. His fat dog, Buck, became a town mascot, lying unmoved on the town's sidewalks while pedestrians walked over or around him.
O'Cain built a local legend in that small shack that served as his fish market. The floors were dirt covered with sawdust and the smell of fish and shrimp permeated the
air for blocks around O'Cain's Fish Market.
On one occasion, the town's banker, William Mizell went into the fish market. O'Cain had his back turned to the stodgy banker as Mizell asked, "Got any shrimp?" Without
turning, O'Cain gruffly answered: "H--- no. I've got no shrimp. If I had shrimp you'd want fish." Mizell's face blushed as he turned and left the market, stumbling over Buck as
he left. O'Cain learned later that his rude remarks were made to one of the most important men in town. It bothered him but little.
O'Cain, usually impeccable dressed in a black suit, and wearing a bow tie, saw his fish market a gathering place for the town's elderly and retired. He built a bench which
he placed in front of his fish market for them to while away the hours.
Word circulated in the town that O'Cain had amassed a fortune working in the north, and adding to that fortune with proceeds from his local work and sales in his fish market.
In the 1960s, Leonard O'Cain died, an old man, but still running his tiny fish market. Quickly word spread that the old man's fortune was buried beneath the sawdust floor
of his fish market. The talk reached a crescendo. So much so that leaders of the town took it upon themselves to see that the fortune was not taken by any of those who frequented the bench at the front of his fish market.
A local funeral director, a man of unquestioned honesty was sought to oversee the search for O'Cain's fortune. Charlie F. Adkins was put in charge of a shovel brigade to
unearth any buried treasure that might be beneath the well-worn sawdust. For hours three men with shovels moved the sawdust from the floor and onto the town's Main
Street. Crowds watched as shovel after shovel dashed the sawdust onto the sidewalk and street.
Hours went by. All the sawdust was removed. Then the shovel bearers began removing the dirt. Many thought any shovel load would unearth a buried box containing
hundreds of thousands dollars. It was all to no avail. Nearly three feet of dirt was removed from the entire floor of the little fish market. No treasure was found.
Not convinced that O'Cain had not died a rich man, talk began to circulate that some of those who frequented O'Cain's bench had found his treasure after his death, and
absconded with it before the shovel brigade began it's chore.
The run-down little fish market was finally torn down as well as the dilapidated two-story white home next door. That two-story white house, known as the "Johnson
House" was at one time Folkston's Post Office, with the postmaster living there.
Today a brick building occupies the space that once was known as "O'Cain's Fish Market. Seldom do the older settlers even mention the name "Leonard O'Cain." Still
there are those who will swear that the old man had amassed a fortune, and speculate where it might have ended up.
Through much of Charlton County's colorful Twentieth Century, the legend of Leonard O'Cain prevailed. In a small funeral he was buried beside his wife who preceded him in
death by a half-century. The grave of Genia O'Cain is marked with a tall marble monument in Folkston's Pineview Cemetery, but nothing is there to identify the final
resting-place of her husband. Leonard O'Cain, in his lifetime, became one of the colorful characters of Folkston and Charlton County in the Twentieth Century.
Folkston's First Mayor, Benjamin Griffin McDonald, Pushed For His Town's
First Armistice Day Celebration
1918 was a bittersweet year for those in Charlton County. A flu epidemic had taken scores of lives in Folkston, Saint George, Moniac, and Burnt Fort, but the end of hostilities of
World War One was cause for celebration. One man, Benjamin Griffin McDonald, Folkston's first mayor, would push his fellow townspeople to join in celebrating an end to the carnage of World War One.
McDonald, a 52-year-old political powerhouse, owned the McDonald House Hotel on Folkston's Main Street. On the ground floor he operated a general store, with some of the most
fashionable clothes and hats anywhere. He even brought in fashion models to demonstrate to the ladies of the town, the latest fashions.
Folkston's senior high school class in 1918 had three members: Albert Sidney Stewart, Mary Banks and Mayme Askew. Lawrence Mallard was superintendent of schools, and John Harris
the Folkston High School principal.
McDonald walked up and down Folkston's muddy main street, bouncing the idea of a celebration to his fellow merchants. Partly because of McDonald's persuasive manner, the outcome
was unanimous. Folkston would celebrate its first Armistice Day with a peace demonstration. The date was set. It would be November 11, 1918, and the Peace Demonstrations would get started promptly at 6:30 in the evening. As the hour
approached, Folkston's Main Street came alive with adults and youngsters getting into the spirit of celebration. Some rang bells; others blew whistles and sounded the horns of their automobiles. It was to be a celebration, the likes of
which had never before been seen in the town.
Suddenly the crowd became quiet. A young boy, Arthur Buchanan, lifted his bugle and began a series of military bugle calls. At the conclusion the sound of "Taps" further
stirred the listeners.
A bonfire was built in the middle of the street while celebrants joined hands and began singing a chorus of songs…. Over There, and It's a Long Way to Tipperary.
Mallard, in his role as Master of Ceremonies, elicited short talks from two Folkston lawyers, A. W. Woods and A. C. Franks, both of who bore the honorary title of Colonel.
People of the town had put aside their own troubles; some had just lost loved ones in the flu epidemic. In Moniac alone, just a month earlier, In October 1918, twenty had died
from the dreaded flu. But, tonight would be a night for celebration. Four from Charlton County had given their lives on battlefields in France.
Ben McDonald stood back of the crowd; silently approving of the celebration that had resulted from his handiwork.
McDonald's stately hotel had become a part of the Folkston landscape, built by McDonald who had come to Folkston from Waresboro in 1885, the son of a prosperous Ware County
farmer, Donald McDonald.
That celebration at the end of World War One would live in the memory of those who were there, for years afterward Ben McDonald's hotel continued to be a vital part of the Folkston business community. The ground floor general store continued as the fashion center of the town.
McDonald died on May 19, 1932. The hotel continued to operate into the 1950s. Although the general store was closed, the windows continued to display fashions of the 1920s until
the Charlton County Centennial celebration in 1954.
In 1954, the niece of the McDonalds, Martha Grace Bragg, opened up the old store to allow locals to buy the early American fashions still on the shelves: high button-top ladies
shoes and fancy ladies hats to wear during the Centennial Celebration. Upstairs rooms would continue to be rented out, mostly to long-time guests. The niece continued to operate a fabric shop on the ground floor until the 1970s.
On August 3, 1958, Ben McDonald's wife, Bernice, died. The two had been a part of the Charlton County heartbeat since before the turn of the 20th Century.
In his hotel, Ben McDonald worked tirelessly to advance his town and county, playing a major role in the development of Hursey Park, a 90 acre Four-H Club project in Homeland and
Folkston, named for a Charlton County Agriculture Agent, A. B. Hursey. The park opened on July 7, 1931.
Ben McDonald had been one of the founders of The Citizens Bank in 1912, and led the move to incorporate the City of Folkston, and to become its first mayor. The street between his
hotel and the Folkston restored depot building, bears his name, McDonald Street.
In it's heyday, Ben McDonald's hotel had anchored four Folkston hotels, clustered around Folkston's busy train depot; McDonalds, The Roddenberry Hotel, just east of the present
post office, and across Main Street, The Arnold Hotel and the Central House Hotel. In the early years for those hotels, over a dozen passenger trains picked up and discharged passengers every day. Most of the strangers made their way to
the registration desks of the hotels.
Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 would be but another day's work for Ben McDonald. The lanky hotel owner and civic leader had helped guide his town and county through the early
years of the 20th century.
Parade A Hit With Local Residents
Parades are nothing unusual along Folkston's Main Street. There was the Charlton County Centennial Parade in February 1954 as the county marked its hundredth year of existence.
That parade was a "biggie". Each day of the weakling celebration was devoted to a special historical topic. There was Pioneer Day, Black History Day, and others. Marchers formed into a mammoth parade which included oxen and wagons, covered
wagons, old Model T Fords, fire trucks and marchers….marchers…marchers.
Perhaps one of the most unusual parades to move up and down Folkston's Main Street was a Shriner's parade.
It was the late 1950s and some 50 members of Masonic Lodges, mostly from Folkston's Masonic Lodge Number 196, were being indoctrinated into the Shriners. Alee Temple of Savannah
formed one of the most colorful parades to be seen in Folkston.
Members of the organization gathered up entries from every Shrine Club for miles around. Jesup, Fernandina Beach, Savannah, and scores of other cities sent their entries into
Folkston for the Shrine Parade.
Fun loving members brought their "hot sticks", charged electric probes they would use to shock parade watchers. Colorful floats and Ferris Wheels moved along Main Street and
brightly dressed marchers with their sultan outfits played to the crowds on both sides of the street.
Then along came the heart of the parade, the fifty candidates who were to be initiated as Shriners followed, tied to a rope being pulled by a station wagon with the words "Fresh
Meat" brightly painted on the front doors. Those men would pay the price for the day's entertainment.
That afternoon, inside the High School Gymnasium, came the price. The 50 inductees would suffer through hours of electrifying antics overseen by the veteran Shriners as they
sought to become full-fledged Shriners. It required heavy-duty gasoline electric generators to supply the power needed for most of the initiation pranks. This was done all at the expense of the 50 candidates.
That evening, the inductees who were able, joined in a Shriner's Ball inside the Folkston Gymnasium, dolled out in their new red fez hats and shining Shriner's pins.
However, it was the parade left a lasting impression on the people of Charlton County. The night before the parade, sirens wailed all throughout the night in usually quiet
residential neighborhoods. The fun-loving Shriners were here to leave their impression on Folkston. Female parade-watchers had their skirts blown high above their waists by compressed air tanks aimed by Shriners, embarrassing numbers of
Late that Saturday night the exhausted candidates and Shriner visitors called it a night cleaned up the gymnasium and returned to their homes. For years to come it would be the
highlight of numbers of conversations as the people of Folkston and Charlton County long remembered the gigantic Shrine Parade of the late 1950s.
|35. Dr. Albert Fleming's Amaryllis Garden brightened Folkston's day.
Photo shows the old Fleming Hospital, which was operated by Dr. Albert Fleming from the 1920s until 1944. At right, Dr. Fleming stands amid his Amaryllis Garden, a beautiful
tradition in Folkston from 1932 until the 1950s.
He didn't look like he'd once run a copperhead steam engine into the heart of the Okefenokee. The frail man though, was commanding when he spoke. He was Doctor Albert Fleming. He
was speaking to a crowd of his neighbors at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Folkston. It was July 4, 1930.
The nation was into its first half-year of the Great Depression. The stock market had crashed in October 1929. Greyhound Bus Lines began carrying its first passengers, and people
in Charlton County were beginning to feel the economic pinch as the Roaring Twenties came to an end.
Speaking to the Folkston Chamber of Commerce was a young man from Orlando.
He was R. W. Ragin, of the Amaryllis Growers Association. He was trying to interest Charlton residents in growing the Amaryllis, selling them the plants, with a promise to return the following year to buy the bulb harvest. A process that had done wonders for Holland's economy, with Tulip bulbs.
The Folkstonites listened intently. Three among them bought the Amaryllis plants, and looked forward to cash return for the harvest in 1931. Dr. Albert Fleming, George White, and
Marshall Crews pulled out their money in exchange for the Amaryllis plants. The man never returned, but Dr. Fleming saw it as the beginning of an annual event of beauty when his half-acre of Amaryllis bloomed in the spring. Dr. Fleming
lovingly tended his Amaryllis garden for years afterward.
That meeting on July 4, 1930 revealed just one more of Dr. Fleming's leadership qualities.
Before moving to Folkston in 1919, the quiet, unassuming physician had been Chairman of the Ware County Commission, and had been urged to run for Ordinary (now Probate Judge). A plea Dr. Fleming declined.
Dr. Fleming, at that July 4, 1930 meeting had been in Folkston through the decade of the Roaring Twenties. The native of Cobb County, Georgia was born on November 15. 1866,
one year after the end of the Civil War, and moved into Folkston in 1919. He was boarding at the Central House Hotel on Folkston's Main Street in 1920 when it was destroyed by fire. He escaped the fire with all his possessions.
Unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, he took a job right out of high school with the NC & St. L. Railroad. He became an engineer on a steam locomotive, running from
Atlanta to Knoxville. Soon, after tiring of the railroad job, he enrolled in medical school at Atlanta Medical College, getting his degree in 1894, still not thirty years old.
As a physician, Dr. Fleming began working with the State of Georgia, treating prisoners. One of his jobs was tending a thousand state prisoners near Fargo, Georgia for four years
at the turn of the century in 1900. The prisoners were under lease from the state to Baxter and Company, logging the Okefenokee Swamp. Doctor Fleming eventually wound up in Ware County working as a physician at a new prison there, but
resigned in 1902 to enter private medical practice in Waycross.
It was in Waycross that the political career of Dr. Fleming began. An activist, he began to push for the creation of the Waycross Kings Daughters Hospital, where he served as the
hospital's first Chairman of the Medical Board. Later in Waycross, he established the Mary Street Hospital and in 1914 was appointed by Georgia Governor Staton to the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners where he served two four-year terms.
In Folkston, Dr. Fleming blended his medical practice with his political drive. He bought the home built by Dr. J. A. Moore on Folkston's First Street and turned it into the
Fleming Hospital, which he operated for 20 years.
Still in high gear from his political projects in Waycross, in Folkston he turned his attention to getting the Dixie Highway through Folkston, a project that took years to
accomplish. He became Folkston's mayor, and headed up the Chamber of Commerce for nearly a decade.
Dr. Fleming often talked about first arriving in Folkston, and beginning practice in 1921. His first offices were upstairs in the Davis Building, which later housed the general
store of L. E. Stokes and Son. Soon afterward he built an office on First Street, a home now occupied by Mrs. Dave Thrift.
In that Fleming Hospital, Dr. Fleming delivered babies, performed surgery, and treated the sick. Most often he would prescribe Calomel and Castor Oil, along with Mustard Plasters
for chest colds. He closed his Fleming Hospital in 1944, when Dr. Walter McCoy bought and opened the Sawyer Hospital, which was closed when its owner, Dr. Jim Sawyer, entered the military in World War Two.
As Charlton County's Health Officer, Dr. Fleming worked tirelessly through an epidemic of Brill Fever in the town. Scores of mothers named their newborn boys for the genial
doctor: Fleming Huling, Fleming Gibson, and Fleming Wilson, to name a few.
Dr. Fleming, on April 30, 1924, married the daughter of Folkston banker; William Mizell, Sr. Susie Mizell and Albert Fleming were married in the music room of the Mizell home on
Palm Street in Folkston. Dr. Fleming had two children, a son and a daughter, by a previous marriage.
Witnesses still recall Dr. Fleming, in the 1950s, driving his big black Chrysler as if he was going to a fire. As he drove on First Street, his car jumped as it struck the
pavement on Main Street. Locals learned to look both ways for Dr. Fleming when approaching that intersection. There was no traffic signal there during the "Fleming Years."
Older people still talk of how Dr. Fleming was sold on the
healthy quality of waters from an artesian well east of Folkston: East Springs, now covered, in the dip on Kingsland Drive just west of Camp Pinckney Baptist Church. He would send his patients to the springs to get drinking water, which he
thought would bring near-miracle cures.
Dr. Fleming retired in the late 1940s, spending his retirement traveling and reading. He had practiced medicine in Folkston for twenty-five years. He died at age 86, on July 7,
1953, twenty-three years after that Chamber of Commerce meeting on July 4, 1930 when he began his cherished Amaryllis garden on the north lawn of his Fleming Hospital. The Amaryllis garden gave Folkston a lift for years, from 1932 until
the 1950s, as the colorful Amaryllis bloomed brightly in the spring. Charlton County owes much to Dr. Albert Fleming, his work as a physician, and his work to improve the quality of life for his neighbors in Charlton County.
Begun in 1906, Enjoying Renaissance
Charlton County's second incorporated city, Homeland, is enjoying a decade-long rebirth, thanks mostly to the efforts of its mayor, Austin Hickox.
Hickox, a resident of the city, with a current population of around 1,500, works in the dual jobs of mayor and city superintendent. One day he is drawing up ordinances, the next
he meets with industrial prospects for the city's new industrial park.
When Homeland was first settled, immigrants from northern states moved into the area and set up the "1906 Colony Company." Planners laid out an ambitious city map, complete with
parks, cemetery, and agricultural plots. C. W. Waughtel, a school teacher from Red Lion, Pennsylvania was the chief mover of the new colony, selling lots to other settlers from northern states who were hunting milder climates and economic
Hickox, armed with a Photostatic memory of Homeland's early history, set about to bring big changes to the small city, located just two miles north of the county seat, Folkston.
Hickox, before becoming mayor five years ago, was a long time member of the Homeland City Council, often arguing in vain for new life for the sleepy community.
In the early 1920s, Homeland had seen almost meteoric growth. A cigar factory, masonry church buildings, a railroad depot, a post office, and numerous stores were built. The town
fathers had incorporated the former Colony Company into the City of Homeland. Agricultural interests prospered and the small city that sat between two railroad lines, one leading to Waycross and the other leading to Jesup. Homeland also
had a weekly newspaper, and there was talk about opening a bank and a local telephone company.
Then the Great Depression struck. Homeland, like its sister city of Folkston slid back into an area of no growth. Over the years the residents of Homeland became complacent
satisfied with no growth and a sleepy life style.
Hickox, when he took over the mayor's post set about to change all this. He wanted more for the people of Homeland. He saw that his city was not sharing in Charlton County's local
option sales tax. Homeland had been excluded from that revenue by the Charlton County Commission who contended Homeland was not an eligible city. It took Hickox many months of legal work and many trips to the Georgia Department of Revenue
to change all that, and with the county fighting his every step.
Hickox still gets upset when he thinks about the year 1951, when Folkston had legislation passed in the Georgia General Assembly, ripping Homeland's valuable highway frontage on
U. S. 1 and U. S. 301 from Homeland and annexing it into the City of Folkston. Homeland's efforts, then headed by its mayor, Dr. W. J. Schneider, could not undo the damaging changes. Today, what was once Homeland along that corridor, is
now part of Folkston, depriving Homeland of valuable tax bases and commercial outlets.
Despite these setbacks, Hickox has succeeded in acquiring state grants for a million dollars in street paving, helped inaugurate the city's water system, and with the help of his
city council, opened up a new paved access route into north Homeland.
Hickox, as mayor, saw unsightly mobile home parks on the city's major streets. He pushed through the council a zoning ordinance. Five years later, most of those unsightly areas
have been cleaned up, while mobile homes moving into Homeland must meet rigid construction standards. The difference in the looks of the small city is astounding.
Homeland has an active Police Department, a city-owned and operated residential garbage pickup, computerized record keeping, and, above all, its residents now take pride in
talking of their home town. Hickox still is stymied by mail for Homeland residents being addressed to the Folkston post office, with identical zip codes.
Hickox says the city is actively pursuing industrial growth and commercial growth. The highly-charged mayor is on numbers of area-wide and state commissions, making valuable
friends for him and his city.
Homeland is truly enjoying a rebirth as it enters the 21st Century, with Hickox's leadership, visitors to the growing city are amazed by the changes from the Homeland of just several years ago.
|37. W.H. MIZELL, Charlton
Sheriff From 1910 Until 1932, Did His Job The Hardy Way
When he took over the Charlton County Sheriff's office, W. H. Mizell didn't
know he would remain in the job until 1932. Mizell, a Charlton County native, was popular with the people of his county. His friends and relatives were spread through the entire county. He would have little trouble getting elected Sheriff.
Charlton County then would see several new communities spring up. In St.
George in 1910, the booming town in "The Bend" section in the south end of the county was growing and beginning its 6th year since being founded by the Fitzgerald family from the mid-west.
Homeland, then known as the "Colony Company" was a mere 4 years old and growing. By leaps and bounds. The
community, a year earlier, had been incorporated as the City of Homeland.
Sheriff Mizell took all the growth in stride, going about his duties in the
ten-year-old Charlton County Courthouse with the ease of a veteran. Mizell became known as a friendly man, but one who could be stern when his job demanded. Frequently he had to travel by horseback in the early
years of his terms. Prisoners would be moved by rail with Mizell accompanying them.
In 1910, Mizell's first term, the town of Folkston had only sand streets, and
one masonry building other than the courthouse; The Bank of Folkston, had recently opened its bank on the corner of First and Main Street. Liberty Banking Company of
Hinesville owned the bank. Soon other buildings were to spring up; The Arnold Hotel, The Central House Hotel, and The McDonald House Hotel would line up on Folkston's
Main Street, or as some called it then, Courthouse Street. The courthouse anchored the east end of the street.
Mizell had to deal with some of the toughest criminals anywhere during his
terms of office, from murderers to rum-runners in the later years. He continued to grow into his job, taking every change in stride.
A handsome man, Mizell dressed the part. Usually wearing a black coat and
tie, he continued to pile up friends. Colonel A. S. McQueen, in his History of Charlton County, complimented Mizell for the impeccable way in which he kept the county
records for his office. Court cases were handled with dispatch, but then along came change.
Charlton County, to fight the threat of rum-runners during the prohibition period,
hired a motorcycle policeman, J. O. Sikes, to pursue the illegal traffic running liquor through the county along the Dixie Highway. Sikes made friends easily, and was good
at his job. Sikes became a local hero in a shoot-out in Uptonville when he stopped a liquor car with his motorcycle chase. Two thugs got out of their car and began shooting
at Sikes. Sikes ducked behind his motorcycle and returned fire. The two thugs were killed. That incident turned Sikes into a local hero. He had little trouble ousting Mizell
from his Sheriff's job in 1932. But, the 22 years Mizell served as sheriff, were some of the most difficult in the history of the county. A tribute to a man dedicated to his job.
|38. Charlie Passieu
created a legacy as Mayor of Folkston from the 1920s until the 1960s
Photo shows the late State
Senator, Charlie Smith, Sr. (left) presenting a State of Georgia Check to Folkston Mayor Charlie Passieu (right) in the 1960s. The two Charlies created legacies on the political scenes in Southeast Georgia as they worked
together for Folkston's municipal improvements.
Charles Joseph Passieu had seen his businesses survive during the darkest days of the Great Depression. The mayor used the same methods to make sure the City of
Folkston could afford to continue operating. The Pennsylvania native had first moved south at the turn of the 20th Century, locating first in Hilliard, Florida where he operated a General Store.
Born in 1890, Passieu moved into Folkston and opened a Ford Dealership in partnership with L. E. Mallard on Folkston's Main Street, in a building located where
Chesser Sales and Service is located today.
When a City of Folkston project was completed under the leadership of long-time Mayor Charlie Passieu, some called it "Passieuized". They were referring to the frugal
methods of Passieu in financing the project. There were few federal or state grants in those years.
The Ford Dealership of Passieu and Mallard lasted but a few years. Passieu objected when Mallard, an ardent trader, took horses and mules in on trade for a new Ford.
Passieu objected violently and made Mallard a Buy or Sell proposition. Mallard sold and the Business was named Passieu Ford.
Passieu continued to sell Fords until 1936, then changing over to a Chevrolet Agency when Fords came out with its V-8 motors.
Passieu Chevrolet Company became a Folkston landmark on the town's Main Street. Largely because of the frugal management of Passieu, the Chevrolet dealer prospered
throughout the lean years of the country's worse-ever economic depression. A former parts salesman told that Passieu required him to use both sides of adding machine
tapes to cut costs. Repairs to his garage and showroom saw Passieu using whatever materials he had on hand.
It was during the war years of World War Two that the ardent patriotism of Passieu came to light. He took it upon himself to spread word of the battle action to other Main
Street merchants. When the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy in France on June 6, 1944, Passieu, with an unusual broad smile, burst into the front doors of other
merchants to announce "Our boys have landed!. He had a son, Louie, in the Pacific on a B-29 bomber, flying dangerous bombing missions into Japanese held islands, and into Japan itself.
Passieu had become mayor when Mayor Dr. Jim Sawyer was called into service during that war. Passieu carefully looked over all the activities of the town, then under
a thousand citizens.
However, the frugal business spending of Passieu did not extend into his personal life. An ardent member of the Folkston Masonic Lodge, Passieu spent freely of his ample
funds when attending conventions, often buying meals for other hometown folk who appeared at the meetings.
Passieu built the Ritz Theater on Main Street in the late 1930s, leasing it to a Jacksonville Theater operator, Joseph Hackle, to operate. The old Ritz became the
entertainment center for miles around showing movies every day but Sunday. Gone With The Wind was showed in Folkston soon after its release in 1939. When the Ritz
needed repairs, Passieu could be found atop the marquee, pouring tar and nailing down boards that had come loose. When he applied stucco on the front of the theater
he chose to spray the finish with dots of gold paint. He used a Flit insect spray can to apply the gold dots. The results looked professional.
When his town needed a caution traffic signal at the west end of Kingsland Drive, Passieu built one using a 5 gallon oil can, cutting holes for the lights and making it
flash on and off with a Christmas Tree Light flasher. That too, looked professional.
Passieu continued to be Folkston's Mayor until the 1960s. During his final years in office, Passieu took a long vacation to go to France, the home of his ancestors. The
town flourished under his leadership with minimum costs to Folkston taxpayers.
Passieu, together with his son Louie, after his safe return from World War Two actions, and his son-in-law, L. D. Majors, continued to operate his Passieu Chevrolet
Company in a new building on U. S. One South in Folkston. The business there set sales records for small Chevrolet dealers and it continued to prosper until it was sold.
Soon after stepping down from his position as Mayor of Folkston, Charles Joseph Passieu died in 1968. His legacy continues today for many progressive programs put
into play by the popular Passieu.
Bitter School Bond Issues Passed for a New High School in 1953
Photo shows gathering of School Board Members, Trustees, and County Commissioners as they broke ground for new school buildings in 1953. Left to right, County Commissioner
Ernest A. Bell, Sr., School Trustee Tom Gowen, Trustee Shelton M. Howard, County Commissioner Alton Carter, County Clerk John Harris, Board Member J. P. Conner, Trustee
J. Malcolm Wade, Trustee Theo Dinkins, School Board Member Frank Conner, School Board Chairman (with shovel) J. V. Gowen, Sr., School Superintendent William S. Smith,
School Board Member Alfred Thrift, School Board Member Austin Gay, and School Trustee, Woodrow Pickren. All are now deceased except Alton Carter,
It had been a hard fight, but Charlton County was to get a new high school and gymnasium.
County voters had approved a bond issue for the two new structures to replace a building in use since the turn of the early 1900s.
The old building, standing on the corner of Folkston's Third Street and Kingsland Drive had
seen better days, but now it was barely serviceable, plaster fell from the walls, the stairs leading to the second story creaked and threatened to fall with every passing day.
Tacked onto the old high school building was a "cracker box" gymnasium, built in the 1930s
with WPA funds during the nation's economic depression, to stimulate payroll, not primarily to provide a place for playing basketball.
Standing on the grounds where the new buildings were to be built, in 1953, was School Superintendent William Shock Smith, a native of West Virginia, with a pleasing personality
who was elected School Superintendent in a bitter political contest in 1943 with the incumbent, John Harris, who had held the job since 1924.
Smith marched to a different drummer. He wanted better school facilities. The old days of "we'll make these do" were gone. To Harris, athletics had been something he had to put up
with in his day. Smith saw athletics as a way to develop the body and mind of his young students. The students liked the change.
Under Harris, the high school basketball teams played 8 to 10 games a year, mostly with next-door teams like Hilliard, Yulee, Nahunta, and Saint George. The high school had no
Smith put in to change all this. He pushed for a complete athletic schedule for the high
school. In 1947, he talked the Folkston Lions Club into buying uniforms for the county's first football team, and hired a tennis professional, Art Prochaski, as the Indians' first football
coach. Another West Virginian soon replaced Prochaski, C. L. (Bud)
Not satisfied with the rundown school building in the county, Smith talked his School Board
into offering a bond issue to build a modern new high school building and a new gymnasium. The gym was to cost $80,000 dollars. Smith and the School Board were vilified for offering
such a suggestion; nevertheless, the voters did approve the measures.
Smith had done the nearly impossible. Now he, the School Board and Board of Trustees would break ground for the new buildings. It was 1953.
You could see the look of pride on the faces of the men as they gathered around Board Chairman J. V. Gowen, Sr., Chairman of the Board, who would turn the first shovel of dirt.
The road had been long and bitter. Opponents to the bond issue had pulled out all stops to defeat the measure, including some personally boycotting business leaders who spoke out in favor of the bonds.
At that groundbreaking, aging John Harris, then Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners
shared the spotlight. Harris was in the midst of planning the Charlton County Centennial, which was coming up in February of 1954. The long-time former School Superintendent had
first come into the county in 1904, settling in Saint George from Cuba Missouri. There he published a newspaper and headed up that community's drive for new schools. Now Harris
looked on proudly at his successor in the School Superintendent's office, Bill Smith. The two were cordial, but never close during Smith's 20-year reign as School Superintendent. Harris
took his political defeat by Smith hard. Some teachers, loyal to Harris, resigned rather than work for a new Superintendent. Political graves popped up on the front lawn of the county
courthouse. That was ten years earlier than the groundbreaking for the new high school and gym. Smith always went out of his way to be warm and polite to Harris, but Harris never returned the warmth.
Nevertheless, the miracle was the passing of those school bonds. Old political wounds were
reopened; however, Smith had a special talent for winning over his former adversaries. That trait served Smith well in several county elections during his terms of office. He served twenty
years before losing in a close election to D. Ray James, a then Folkston High School Principal.
That day in 1953 when the group gathered for the symbolic groundbreaking ceremonies, any rancor that may have existed among the participants was covered up. It was a scene of
unanimous joy, the School Board Members, County Commissioners, School Trustees and Smith gathered around Chairman Jim Gowen as he pitched his shovel into the ground. All
was forgiven in past political struggles, now the men there would move on to other missions for the public good.
Today those buildings, opened in 1954, which later became the Folkston
Middle School, are abandoned. Quarters that are more modern became
available. The old $80,000 gym is still used, but the classrooms, lunchroom
and library sit vacant, threatening to join other abandoned county school
buildings in the town that remained standing as time passed them by.
Charlton Courthouse was once the place to be on election night
The Charlton County Courthouse, (pictured) was often the scene of election night pranks, some sending candidates home thinking they were beaten, but later found out they were victims of an election
Charlton County's courthouse, standing like a silent sentinel at the east end of Folkston's Main Street, has witnessed hundreds of elections, many colorful events that
help shape the county's political history.
In the 1950s, the county's aging clerk, John Harris, oversaw most of those elections. Voters would vote in what is now the County Commission Offices, standing in the
courthouse hall while waiting their turn to cast their paper ballots. Back just after the elimination of Georgia's "White Primary" laws, few blacks bothered to vote. When they
did, they braved a series of stern looks from those in charge of the elections.
One of Charlton's first Republican voters was a black school bus driver, T. L. (Buddy) Jones. He usually was the only black to cast his ballot in those early elections. John
Harris, anxious to learn how Jones had voted, handed him a red colored pencil with which to mark his ballot. At the vote counting, Harris would point out to the other
election workers Jones ballot, marked with a red pencil, the only ballot not using a black pencil for ballot marking. Jones soon got word of Harris' scheme and took his own black pencil to the polls when voting in later elections.
Many election pranks found their way into the election process, especially late at night when the ballots were being counted. In one election, State Ben Rodgers was running
for re-election. He was being challenged by George Crews of Winokur, a retired state highway employee. While the ballots were being counted, a group had gathered in the
vote-counting room. Among those onlookers was Folkston physician, Dr. Joe Jackson.
Doctor Jackson and a fellow conspirator, Homer Allen, hit upon a scheme to liven up the vote counting process. They would lay out uncounted ballots to make the counting
easier for the vote counters.
Rodgers and Crews were running tit for tat in the vote counting around nine o'clock that night. Jackson and Allen decided to have some fun. They pulled out scores of ballots
choosing Crews over Rodgers. Rodgers was outside in the courthouse hall, getting periodic updates on the vote counting inside the room.
Jackson and Allen neatly laid out around 60 ballots, all marked for Crews over Rodgers. The deep voice of Harris could be heard calling out time and again "Crews". No votes for
Rodgers were heard for what seemed like an hour. Crews informal tally brought him from behind to well into the lead over Rodgers as the prank came into play.
Rodgers, listening at the closed door outside the vote counting room, soon became worried. His lead had vanished and now he was behind, and getting further behind as
the Crews ballots were counted. He turned to his supporters, "Well it looks like I'm beat" he said, with a long face. "I'm not going to stay up here and listen to any more of
this, I'm going home and go to bed" he opined. He did. It was just after 10 p.m. with hundreds of more votes still to be counted.
Then, after Rodgers had left, the stacked Crews votes began to vanish. From there out Harris could only say, time and again, "Rodgers". The Crews lead vanished and
Rodgers won the election by over a hundred votes. Rodgers friends made their way to the Rodgers home and woke Rodgers, telling him of his victory. He, at first, thought
they were ribbing him. He could not believe the turn in fortunes. But when told of the prank of Doctor Jackson and Homer Allen, he understood it all. With a wide grin,
Rodgers told his friends, that he thought "something was up." Doctor Jackson and Allen enjoyed the excitement caused by their prank for weeks. Rodgers didn't share in
their enthusiasm. That was but one of the scores of antics that used to liven up the monotonous job of counting paper ballots late into election nights, and sometimes, ending up just before noon the following day.
Inside that courthouse, election nights were an "event". In the 1950s, the smell of whiskey in the men's room would take the breath of most, but every few minutes
numbers could be seen making their way into the restroom to 'have another nip". When the night was over, dozens would be out of control, especially those who saw their
candidates beaten. Fights outside in the courthouse yard were not uncommon. Usually just before daylight, a "graveyard" was built by supporters of winning candidates.
Colorful crosses were hastily made with sarcastic phrases and placed upon the graves of the losers.
Now, the election process is much tamer. Paper ballots have long been replaced by voting machines, and much of the excitement of the past is but a memory of those who
took part in those early elections of the 1950s.
Folkston City Government, in the 1960s, Pushed Through a City Sewer
System, Despite Voters Wishes
Cutlines Shown in this 1960 era photo is some of the Folkston City Government members who pushed through Folkston's first sewer system, in spite of two
votes against it by city voters. Left to right, Council member Oscar Raynor, Council member R. Ward Harrison, Mayor Jack Mays accepting check from FmHA Director Seth Kellum, Council Member Jesse Crews, Sr., and Folkston
City Attorney Robert W. Harrison. Many other changes were pushed through by the "Young Turks" members. Only Mays and Robert Harrison are alive today.
The question had twice been placed before the voters of the City of Folkston: Should Folkston go into debt to put in the city's first sanitary sewer system? Twice the voters
turned thumbs down on that proposal and the mayor and city council put the project into the garbage can. Folkston's mayor, in that last city election on the question, was Malcolm Wade.
On rainy days one could smell the stench of overflowing cesspools all through the town, and on several occasions restaurants were forced to close their doors because
of the inability to use their rest rooms.
These were the same voters who twice turned down a local election to remove cattle from the county's highways in "no-fence" elections. Charlton was one of only two
counties never to approve that law. The cattle were taken off the highways only after an act of the Georgia Legislature forced the remaining two counties to comply and fence their livestock off public highways.
Something unusual happened in the mid-1960s, Folkston voters chose what was later called an "upstart" city council and mayor. On the Folkston City Council were R. Ward
Harrison, Sr., James Carl Jones, Jr., Jesse A. Crews, Sr., Donald Prescott and Oscar Raynor. The mayor was Jack Mays. It was 1964.
Not content with the town's lack of a sewer system, the council decided to take action on its own…despite the wishes of the voters in two elections. The council would not
again put the question on the ballot. It would "just do it."
In a two-year effort, the mayor and council sought help from the Farmers Home Administration, agreeing to pledge revenue raised from the sewer system to retire the debt.
After months of arm-twisting, the Farmers Home Administration agreed to a grant to Folkston of $375,000, to be combined with a 4 percent loan of $400,000. The $775,000
dollar project overwhelmed many city voters, some of whom pledged to turn the upstart mayor and council out to pasture in the next city election.
Easements had to be secured for the sewer lines from private homeowners. This was a task that sometimes came hard because the city fathers had not put the question of a
sewer system again to city voters.
Nevertheless, with the loan and grant in hand, the city government proceeded to take bids for the system. In many cases, easements came only through condemnation
action. This, too, left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, especially some of the town's old timers who had a deep resentment at what they called "dictatorial methods" of the mayor and council.
Members of that town council had been told by industrial prospects that their company could get along without a city sewer system, but the lack of such indicated a
"backward" town. One industrial prospect, which turned down locating in the city, cited the town's clock on the Charlton County Courthouse. It was four hours slow. The
prospect said that too, indicated a backward town as well as the city's Christmas lights still hanging across the town's streets in July. " I don't want my factory located in a backward town," the prospect said. Those comments embarrassed the mayor and
council and sparked a move forward to make the town more attractive and livable. The town's six-month old Christmas lights were taken down. The Courthouse clock was
repaired and set, and the town set about getting its sewer system in as quickly as possible.
The people of the town liked the changes. They wondered how they ever got along without a sanitary sewer system. The mayor and council took this mind-change as a
charge to continue its improvements.
In four short years, that city government paved all the city's unpaved streets. It build a 54 unit public housing project, created an industrial park and landed its first
manufacturing plant: Stephenson Enterprises. Union Camp Corporation soon was enticed into locating its Building Supply business and Chip Sawmill in the Industrial Park. Folkston was off and running.
Tired of many senior citizens having to go to Folkston's Post Office each day for their mail, the council asked for, and got, city mail delivery. First the homes and
businesses had to be numbered. That too, came as a pleasant change, especially for the town's older citizens.
The "upstart" 1965 City Council had taken heart when they learned that Folkston city leaders had been vilified in the 1920s when the town's first water system was installed.
Bitterness was slow to leave.
The list of accomplishments, which the "brash Turks" brought about, was long. Mercury vapor streetlights replaced the old incandescent lamps. A city-owned Police
Cruiser was bought, doing away with the police officers having to furnish their own vehicles. Folkston adopted its first annual budget. Prior to that, if the city had money in the bank, it bought whatever it wanted.
A firehouse was turned into a Folkston City Hall, replacing a small cubicle building that had, at one time, served as a police post.
That Folkston city government kept the airlines hot between Folkston and Washington, seeking funds for the first development at the Okefenokee Swamp's Camp Cornelia
entrance. Senator Richard Russell, agreeing with the Folkston Council, marked into the appropriations bill, in a budget hearing, over $400,000 to be used by the
Department of the Interior to begin improvements at the swamp entrance. The boat basin, the welcome center, boardwalks and observation tower were built with those funds. Later appropriations brought further improvements.
That council of "young Turks" gave Folkston city residents a fast ride into the 20th Century. All this was ignited when a Jewish garment manufacturer told them he would
not locate his factory in a backward town.
The voters returned most of the members of that city council to office. By Election Day, the voters had liked the changes; changes many had fought when first proposed.
John Harris, Master of "Playing Politics" When Education Would Benefit
The year was 1905. President Theodore Roosevelt had just been inaugurated for his first full term in the White House. In the south end of Charlton County a boomtown was being
created: Saint George. Developed by P. H. Fitzgerald, publisher of the American Tribune, an Indianapolis, Indiana newspaper. It would be colonized as the 1904 Colony Company,
on 9,000 acres of land in Charlton County bought by Fitzgerald from the
Georgia, Southern and Florida Railroad Company.
At that time the settlement was known as Cutler's Station, a sleepy little community before Fitzgerald began his colonization, bringing in scores of families from the
A wood-fired steam locomotive, pulling several passenger cars and baggage cars squealed to a stop at the tiny railroad station. Stepping off the passenger car was 30-year-old John
Harris and his 29-year-old wife, Cora. They had boarded the train in Cuba, Missouri, a small Missouri community where Harris published a weekly newspaper, The Cuba Review.
It didn't take Harris long to plunge into the mushrooming development at Saint George, named for Fitzgerald's grandson, George, who died while a youngster. The explosive buildup
at St. George had just begun when Harris arrived. Harris had graduated at age 16, with a Bachelor of Literature Degree from Carlton College, in Missouri.
Thus began John Harris' 74 years of active participation in schooling and politics of Charlton County. When Harris arrived in Saint George, he immediately set out to get a school
built for the hundred of youngsters who claimed the boomtown as their hometown. Soon a brick school building was going up in Saint George with John Harris as Principal. On the side he began a weekly newspaper in Saint George, The Saint George Gazette.
John Harris was a man of high principals, and with his own agenda. Seldom was he questioned about any decision he made. Such was the influence wielded by the small statured
educator and newspaper publisher.
With the schools running smoothly in St. George, The Charlton County School Board decided to move Harris from Saint George to Folkston, where more students were enrolling in the
Beginning his tenure in Folkston, Harris set out to get the county's schools accredited. Attending a district school meeting in Waycross, in the company of the school board
chairman, Ben G. McDonald. The moderator asked where Folkston planned to board its teachers. Without hesitation, Harris said "We're building a dormitory in Folkston for our teachers." The School Board Chairman's mouth fell open. He knew
there were no plans for such a dormitory. "You're approved and accredited," said the moderator. On the way back to Folkston, McDonald asked Harris how he planned to build such a dormitory. "We'll manage" Harris replied. "We will borrow the
money, build the dormitory and pay the money back." McDonald told Harris to begin drawing up the plans for the dormitory and he would borrow the money from Camden County businessman, John Buie. He did, and construction began on the
dormitory. A contest would name it "The Teacherage." A few years after it was built, it was destroyed by fire. Insurance paid off the Buie loan.
Harris was chosen by the School Board to be County School Superintendent in 1924, succeeding L. E. Mallard, who had been elected to the state legislature. Harris began his work
for $100 dollars a month.
For twenty years, John Harris left his mark on education in Charlton County. His policy of hiring no married teachers brought scores of complaints, but the iron-willed Harris
prevailed. A school board Chairman, L. E. Stokes, asked Harris to hire his daughter, Mary Stokes Davis as a teacher. Harris refused, and hired Mrs. Davis, who was married to Frank Davis, only when he could no longer get single teachers
because of the outbreak of World War Two. Events had finally broken Harris' policy of no married teachers.
During his twenty years as School Superintendent, Harris created Bobby Squirrel stories for the young students. He conjured up the Legend of Shilofohaw for John Harris Junior High
school students and the Legend of Ho-nit-claw for High School Students. There was nothing going on in the schools that did not have the John Harris seal of approval. The school's basketball teams played six games a year and those with
Yulee, Hilliard, Saint George, Wacona and Nahunta. Harris was not fond of school athletics. His emphasis was on reading, writing, and arithmetic.
In 1944, John Harris was challenged for his Superintendent's job in an election, this time by the voters of the county. William S. Smith, West Virginia native and a principal at
Saint George upset the veteran Harris in a bitter election contest. Harris had served as School Superintendent for twenty years.
Never one to step down from public service, Harris then became the Clerk of the Charlton County Board of Commissioners, and also, City Clerk for the City of Folkston. The County
Clerk's position was appointed, but the Folkston City Clerk was a position, which Harris ran for, without opposition. Harris ran both from his office in the Charlton County courthouse. The City of Folkston then had only a desk in the
County Commission office. Later E. H. Wright was hired to help Harris with the collection of Folkston water bills. Still, Harris wielded almost dictatorial power over the two boards. He stepped down from the County Clerk's position to
write a history of Charlton County, a chore asked of him by a county Grand Jury, but for several years he continued to hold the County Clerk's position, using an assistant, Rosa Mae Brooks, to take care of most of the county's
John Harris authored a book, "How to live to be a hundred, by one who did."
In 1954, Harris pushed the idea of a Charlton County Centennial Celebration, and headed up the committee that carried it to a successful conclusion. He remained active until his
death on August 12, 1979. He was 105.
In his lifetime, in Missouri, Harris had met Frank James, brother of outlaw Jesse James. Frank was the Doorkeeper of the Missouri House of Representatives. In the early days of
Saint George, he recalled sleeping in a "Hot bed," used in shifts by workers in the booming city when sleeping quarters became scarce.
Without a doubt, the years of John Harris in Charlton County left an indelible mark on education and politics. His personal agenda made him unpopular in some circles, but there
was never a doubt that the Missouri native had laid out a course for education in Charlton County. Politics was just an instrument used by Harris to accomplish that end.
Harris is buried in Folkston's Pineview Cemetery, beside his first wife who preceded him in death. That cemetery was a favorite project of Harris, and he used his position as City
Clerk to push through many improvements there.
John Harris became a legend in his adopted county and a colorful chapter in Charlton County's Twentieth Century.
o Bring Through the Dixie Highway
Charlton County entered into the 20th Century in a torrent of controversy. The county seat of government had been at Traders Hill since the county was created in February 1854. Now Traders Hill, once a bustling waterfront community on the St. Marys River, was beginning to look run down at the heels. The log county courthouse, the second one to be built there, was disgraceful. The first courthouse had burned to the ground in 1877. Its replacement was now rotting and decaying.
Two Charlton County Grand Juries had recommended the county build a new courthouse. The requests had gone unheeded. People began to get impatient with members of the Board of
Commissioners for their inaction. A Grand Jury went so far as recommending abolishing the Board of County Commissioners. Talk began to circulate about an election to move the seat of government from Traders Hill to Folkston, then a town of
167 people and railroad tracks. There was talk among political leaders of a new brick courthouse at a new county seat.
Enter Folkston lawyer, Colonel William Marshal Olliff, an imposing, statuesque man was as disenchanted as anyone about the embarrassing appearance of the rundown log courthouse
and jail at Traders Hill.
The County Commissioners, at the urging of citizen's petitions, called for an election to move the county seat to Folkston. Opposition from Traders Hill residents was fierce. One
of Traders Hill's most powerful figures, Andrew G. Gowen, fought hard against the removal in the countywide election. The first election failed.
A later election succeeded, although residents of Uptonville joined with Traders Hill voters to try to stop the movement to Folkston. Uptonville, then with more people than
Folkston, was proposed as a compromise site. Voters in "the bend" section of the county, who had voted with Traders Hill voters in the first election, in the second election changed their allegiance from Traders Hill and voted with
Folkston voters to move the seat of government to Folkston.
An attempt to block the second election by not opening the polls at Uptonville failed. Folkston residents went to Uptonville to make sure that voters in Uptonville were allowed to
vote. Folkston was the choice of the voters by a two to one majority. Folkston would become the new seat of government for Charlton County to begin the 20th Century.
Throughout the political infighting, one Folkston leader took the lead, Colonel William Marshal Olliff. The Folkston lawyer began his political fight by opening the first county
newspaper, The Charlton County Herald in 1898. Among the newspaper's goals was the removal of the county seat from Traders Hill to Folkston.
Olliff's love for Folkston spurred the Bulloch County native to work harder for growth. A town of 167 people was not Olliff's idea of a prosperous South Georgia town.
Olliff, through his contacts and through his newspaper began pushing for progress. In 1915 He got involved in a fight to influence the routing of U. S. Highway 1, The Dixie
Highway, through Folkston. Other interests in central Georgia sought to route it miles to the west of Folkston. This movement, begun in 1915 with Olliff's impetus, left no stones unturned to achieve their goal. The group was called the "Good
Roads Committee". It would fight for the Central Dixie Highway."
On that committee with Olliff were most of Folkston's business and political leaders; H. J. Davis, L. E. Mallard (Olliff's nephew), Ben F. Scott, B. G. McDonald, J. W. Vickery,
Dr. Albert Fleming and others.
Under Olliff's driving , the committee called in every political debt owed by road officials in Atlanta. The very future of Folkston's growth depended upon that highway coming
Olliff conceived the idea that if Charlton County offered state officials money to pay part of the cost to route it through Folkston and Homeland, the plan would have a better
chance of being accepted. Olliff was right. State highway officials took to the idea. Olliff began to soften up the county leaders to a proposal to borrow $50,000 to pay as part of the cost of hard surfacing the Dixie Highway through
Homeland and Folkston.
The plan at first met with criticism. Back then $50,000 was still a lot of money. But, soon the idea began to catch on with Charlton County residents. After all $50,000 was a
small amount to pay for the benefits to be received if the highway passed through the two towns.
Then, disaster struck. On May 25, 1917, in the middle of the fight by the Better Roads Committee, Olliff died suddenly of a heart attack.
Others of the committee felt like their world had ended. Their leader was missing.
With the prodding of Jack Davis, L. E. Mallard, and Ben Scott, the committee was fired up again. It knew it could operate with Olliff gone.
The group talked Folkston banker, William Mizell, Sr. of the Citizens Bank, into buying the Central Dixie Highway Bonds of $50,000 to be repaid from county taxes. Mizell agreed to
buy the bonds, and the vote went to county voters. To the surprise of many, the vote for bonds passed by a comfortable margin. The committee went to Atlanta, $50,000 in hand to pay toward locking in the Central Dixie Highway to assure its
path through Folkston and Homeland.
The work of the committee ended in 1922 with a giant celebration at a bridge across the St. Marys River to open the new paved highway through Folkston and Homeland. Hundreds
joined in the celebration as brass bands played, barbecue was served, and a jubilant Charlton County marked their achievement.
William Marshall Olliff had died five years earlier. Speakers at the celebration eulogized Olliff for his early efforts to change the course of the Dixie Highway to come through his adopted city and county.
Today there are only two monuments with the name William Marshal Olliff on them; the Central Dixie Highway monument in front of the Charlton County Courthouse, and on the grave
marker of the most progressive leader in Folkston's history. It's in Pineview Cemetery in Folkston. Just three blocks east of the Central Dixie Highway that he fought so hard to get to pass through his adopted hometown. That Dixie
Highway, however, is the most fitting of monuments to a courageous man.
|44. Christmas, 1941, Charlton County Changed to A War Mode !
Theodore Dinkins, pictured here, was a stabilizing influence in Charlton County during the war years, 1941-1945.
By Jack Mays
The United States had declared War just weeks earlier after the Japanese
sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly boys grew into men. Teen-agers dropped out of high school to join up.
That December in 1941 in Charlton County was not as cold as usual. Rains
had soaked the sandy earth for weeks and Folkston merchants were worried about their Christmas sales. Suppliers had already told the storekeepers that new inventory
would be hard to come by. The war effort had first claim on everything produced. The Home Front would have to wait.
Folkston had only a single policeman then, white-haired Will Johnson, a stern
looking, but big-hearted man who at one time operated the Whip-O-Will Café, next door to W. W. Pickren's Gulf Auto Garage and bus station on Folkston's Main Street.
"Uncle Will" as Johnson was affectionately called, would dutifully walk the town's streets after dark, checking door locks on the stores, and brandishing his flashlight
into the town's dark alleys. Somehow, just knowing that "Uncle Will" was on duty gave the residents a feeling of security.
President Franklin Roosevelt's declaration of war, passed by the congress,
put the nation in a state of emergency. Military law became the law of the land, and the war effort got priority on everything.
World War One veterans, many aging, were called upon to organize the Home
Guard, to protect Charlton County in the event of an enemy invasion; something many thought would become a certainty. The rag-tag Home Guard, shouldering shotguns
and wearing ill-fitting khaki work clothes, drilled along Folkston's Main Street, usually on Sunday afternoons.
Locals, O. C. Mizell, Gene Aldridge, Oscar Raynor, E. B. Stapleton, and a
couple of R.O.T.C. Graduates, Alva Hopkins and Robert Harrison, made up the leadership of that Charlton County Home Guard. Others included Everett (Snooks) Jones, Alton (Shorty) Mizell, John Cook, and others that can't be recalled from
memory. The organization of the Home Guard took but days following the Pearl Harbor attack. America was being threatened and even the very young were aware of that fact.
Military conscription had been in effect for months as young boys were
inducted into service. Now orders came to double, even quadruple the number being called up for military service. The Charlton County Draft Board met in the Sinclair
Gasoline Service Station of its owner, R. B. (Dick) Stroup, the board's clerk. Wilbur L. Thomas was the Chairman during the early years of the war.
The draft, at the beginning of the war was almost unnecessary in Charlton
County. Most young men and boys were eager to get into the action. Many feared the war would be over before they got into the action. How wrong they were. The number of
volunteers entering from the county reduced the draft quota. On several occasions, no draftees at all were needed to meet the monthly quota.
There was one particularly steadying hand during those early months of World
War Two: Theodore Dinkins, a Folkston businessman who did everything within his power to help the war effort, and to add a calming influence to those left at home. He
had run his James Grocery Company store at the corner of Folkston's Main and First Street through most of the depression years. People, without exception, trusted Theodore Dinkins. He never let them down.
Supplies quickly dwindled on store shelves and in merchant's storerooms. Cigarettes became scarce. Many servicemen, buying cigarettes at military canteens, mailed
cigarettes to their friends and relatives back home. Ladies hosiery was an early casualty. Women began painting their legs with leg makeup; some drawing a dark seam down the back of their legs to simulate hosiery.
Washington, D. C. was calling the shots all over the nation. Orders came down from the War Department instructing the makeup of ration boards, draft boards, information
offices in towns all across America. The directives were immediately put into action without a murmur of dissent.
Folkston had its Ritz Theater for entertainment, although the fare was usually a Grade B movie on Friday and Saturday and Grade A on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays.
Thursday the theater was dark. That didn't keep the youngsters out. They would gather up inside the theater lobby, talking and passing time. The Ritz was sort of a local community room, especially for the young.
Another favorite gathering place for the young was the Main Street garage of Passieu Chevrolet Company. A young mechanic, L. D. Majors, was a favorite of the young,
helping to keep them out of mischief and generally being of help to those who would allow it. Majors organized what he called "The Fan belt Club". When he would hear a
youngster using vulgar language, he would grab him up and apply the fan belt liberally to his backside. The youngsters soon learned not to use profanity in the presence of L. D. Majors.
Folkston funeral director, Charlie Adkins was named the town's Air Raid Warden. His duties were to see that blackouts were complete at night: curtains drawn and no lights
showing during blackout drills. Headlights of automobile had their upper half painted with dark paint to keep the cars from being seen from the air by enemy aircraft.
Adkins organized an aircraft spotting team that would operate from the county courthouse roof. Spotters would telephone reports of all planes flying over, giving the
direction headed, and whether it was a fighter or a bomber. Adkins had trouble at first staffing the post, until he decided to make spotters coed, using young boys and young
girls to fill the shifts. He experienced no more absentee trouble.
That Christmas season, December 1941, saw closeness not seen in years by
locals. They were fighting a common enemy. Local partisanship and bickering ceased. The war effort came first. There would be plenty time to choose up sides and fight again after the war.
Many Charlton County boys had been in military service for years, following
the implementation of the draft after Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Europe's war had been going on for two years before the United States entered on the
side of the Allies. Mothers and wives of those servicemen, although apprehensive from the start, became more worried after Pearl Harbor was bombed and Congress declared World War Two.
Area churches were filled on that Christmas week in Charlton County as
locals turned to God for help, and to pray for the safety of their loved ones. In those same churches, many memorial services were held for those killed in battle action
during the four-year war. That Christmas, 1941, the town's Christmas lights were dark. The Manger Scene at Folkston's Methodist Church was unlighted, as it had been for years. The war effort came first.
Nineteen from Charlton County lost their lives in combat in that war. Many more veterans returned home wounded and maimed. Donald Roddenberry, who lost a leg in
the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, returned home to a living of making photographs with a Polaroid Camera of couples getting married in the Charlton County
Courthouse. Another, Ira (Cracker) Rogers, Jr., wounded by shrapnel from Japanese guns on a Pacific Island, tried to return to as normal a life as possible among his friends and relatives.
It was a sad December 1941. A December that will be long remembered by those alive at the time.
|45. The Home Guard Was Ready To Defend Charlton During WWII.
Photo: When World War Two ended in 1945, Charlton County people flocked into their
churches to give thanks. Shown above is Folkston's 1945 era Methodist Church and First Baptist Church. The two churches rang their church bells to give thanks for an end to that four-year war.
They're dying now at better than 45,000 a month; veterans of World War Two. That war ended 55 years ago so most of the veterans are now in their declining years. Likewise,
those that manned the home front are also in their senior years.
But, turn back the calendar to the years 1942 through 1945. NBC newsman Tom Brokaw calls those who went to war, "The Greatest Generation."
People in Charlton County were enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon on December 7, 1941 when the lightning bolt hit: "Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor" radio news reporters
broke into normal programming to tell the nation. America was at war.
People in Charlton County didn't know what to do. Most didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was. However, unanimous patriotism swelled in their breast. "Those Japanese
should know better than jump on the United States" could be heard over and over again in Stapleton's drug store and over the counter at the Suwannee Store on Folkston's
Main Street. The war was to end in victory for the Allies in late 1945, only after the atomic bomb was used to bring Japan to its knees.
In those four years, while the county's young were fighting all around the world, the Charlton County home front mobilized. In the early months of that war a Charlton
County Home Guard was mobilized, with veterans from World War One, and a college R.O.T.C. graduate, Alva J. Hopkins, of Folkston to help guide the effort.
Every Sunday afternoon the home guard could be seen marching up and down Folkston's Main Street, while onlookers lined the street parking spaces. The members
wore khaki work pants and shirts, and carried shotguns, brought from their homes, on their shoulders. The spectators applauded as the small group marched by. The home
guard was to defend Charlton County in the event of an enemy invasion, which many feared would soon happen.
Another contingent of the Home Guard was assigned to guard the Railroad Bridge across the St. Marys River between Folkston and Boulogne. It was feared that enemy
saboteurs would attempt to blow up the vital rail link.
Young men set up camp on the banks of the river there. Tents spread around a campfire in the center of the encampment. Some members of that river guard were
Robert Harrison, Everett Jones, Alton M. (Shorty) Mizell, Rudolph Cook and many others. They walked patrol across the bridge throughout the night and day determined
to shoot anyone attempting to monkey with the bridge. One fisherman, passing underneath in a boat, was challenged; but, being hard of hearing, could not hear the
order to halt. He came awfully close to being shot out of his boat before the guard finally got his attention and he threw up his hands. As the war raged on, all of these
young men would enlist in military service. Robert Harrison was in on the invasion of North Africa; Alva Hopkins had charge of a sawmill in the jungles of New Guinea, Mizell, Jones and Cook saw battle in Europe.
An airplane spotter's headquarters was built atop the Charlton County Courthouse. It was just a small wooden cubicle next to the large bell that struck to signify the hour,
but the volunteers took the work seriously. A crank telephone was mounted on the side of the little building, and the switchboard operator, Mrs. Nettie Keene, gave those calls
top priority. The plane watchers were to report all planes flying over the town to a Jacksonville dispatch office. This they did dutifully.
The Charlton County schools got into massive scrap drives, bringing metal and rubber from throughout the county to a central location in Folkston, to be taken to Jacksonville
for recycling into tires and guns.
On the home front in Charlton County, a draft board was formed that would send hundreds from home to serve in the armed forces. A ration board dispensed meager
allotments of tires, coffee, meats and gasoline. A regular passenger car got only an "A" stamp, entitling it to 3 gallons of gasoline a week. Pulpwood trucks commanded a "T"
sticker, allowing much more gasoline. Many of the "T" stickers found their way into the black market, as gasoline-hungry civilians were willing to part with their money in
exchange for the more liberal sticker. When someone was discovered selling their "T" stamps, they were given no more gasoline at all.
Housewives became use to innovations, designed to be helpful, but sometimes proving of no value at all. Such was a brief history of unsliced bread, thought to stay fresh
longer. Housewives had to buy special knives to cut the loafs into slices. This experiment was short lived.
Housewives formed support groups, meeting weekly to sew scarves and sweaters for their servicemen. Cakes and cookies were shipped in large quantities from post offices
in Folkston, Homeland, Winokur, Racepond, Saint George and Moniac.
During those trying years, the people throughout Charlton County banded together in a common cause…to win the victory. It took but a short trip to Fernandina Beach and
Brunswick to witness American ships being blown up by Nazi U-boats near the beaches. Saboteurs landed on the beach near Jacksonville, but were captured soon in New York before getting a chance to ply their trade.
The events brought World War Two close to home. It was brought even closer when the families of 19 Charlton County servicemen got messages beginning "We regret to
inform you.." notifying them of the death of their loved one. Hundreds more were wounded in action but returned home, some crippled, with legs missing, and shell-shocked.
World War Two was a bitter experience, for the military and for the home front. When victory came over Japan, ending that war, church bells rang throughout Charlton
County, and men and women found their way into churches to give thanks for the American Victory, and for the end of a tragic world war.
|46. Fifty-four years ago, Kamikaze
planes sink the USS Barry! Dr. Jackson was aboard
The ship shook as though struck by a giant landslide. A loud explosion followed. Immediately. Lieutenant Senior Grade, Joseph Morgan Jackson, US Navy
knew what had happened. A Japanese Kamikaze plane had broadsided his ship, the USS Barry, APD-29, a fast attack transport in the shallow waters off Okinawa. The invasion of Okinawa was underway. It was May 25, 1945.
Dr. Jackson was in the officer's wardroom of the Barry. It was a little after one o'clock in the morning when the Japanese suicide bomber dived into the Barry. Immediately
those dreaded words: "Prepare to abandon ship" sounded over the Barry's loudspeakers. Dr. Jackson knew immediately that his ship was sinking in the shallow
waters off Okinawa, an island still in the hands of the Japanese, who were fighting frantically to keep it from the invading Americans. Kamikaze operations at Okinawa
were the fiercest of the war. And the most frightening in view of their intensity.
That moonlit night Dr. Jackson found himself aboard a ship about to sink to the bottom in a hostile harbor. Dr. Jackson climbed aboard a small lifeboat. He and a handful of
his shipmates headed to another nearby ship, floating nearby. Dr. Jackson, a navy surgeon, would be needed to do surgery on the wounded. The senior surgeon aboard
called out to Lieutenant Jackson, "start operating." Jackson mumbled, "It's a little different trying to operate aboard a ship that is rocking like a roller coaster." But,
Jackson began to operate on the wounded sailors. In the Mediterranean Sea earlier, while Dr. Jackson's ship was off Italy, a sailor had been struck in the abdomen with
shrapnel fragments. It was Jackson's job to keep him alive. Now in the Pacific, more wounded found their way to Jackson's operating table. For some, it was too late.
War was not new to Dr. Jackson. He entered the navy just after finishing medical school at the Medical College of Georgia, and serving his internship. Doctors had little
chance of escaping military service. Their skills were badly needed for American servicemen fighting all over the world.
Dr. Jackson had navy duty on the USS Barry in the Mediterranean off Italy early in 1944. With the war in Europe winding down, the "hot spot" turned to Japan and the
The Barry, with Dr. Jackson aboard made its way through the Panama Canal on its way to Okinawa, to take part in that invasion. The doctors aboard the Barry would be
needed for wounded American servicemen fighting on those islands.
With just a brief stop over at Pearl Harbor, Dr. Jackson's ship headed westward to Okinawa, where the fiercest action in the Pacific was underway.
In a single week in May of 1945, 355 Kamikaze suicide attacks targeted the American fleet off Okinawa. The same night that the Barry was sunk, May 25th, 1945, ten other
American vessels suffered the same fate as the Barry, and sank to the ocean bottom off Okinawa, victims of Kamikaze suicide attack.
The Americans finally claimed Okinawa, but at a terrible cost in American lives. Okinawa was the closest stepping -stone island to the Japanese home island. The
Japanese military defended it with every weapon at its command, including suicide bombers.
Following the sinking of his ship at Okinawa, Dr. Jackson, aboard other ships with medical facilities, continued to operate on the wounded, until the atomic bomb was
dropped on Hiroshima, bringing an end to World War Two.
Japan's dreams of world domination, ended with the signing of unconditional surrender documents by Japan aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in August 1945.
Doctor Jackson returned to his home after VJ Day, but was kept in the Navy Reserves until the late 1950's at the insistence of the Navy. He arrived in Folkston in 1947, and
began a medical practice that would span nearly a half-century.
On April 18, this year (1999), Doctor Jackson will observe his 81st birthday. He tells
an interesting story about the sinking of his ship off Okinawa 54 years ago, just weeks after his 27th birthday.
Following the crew abandoning the Barry, which was in relatively shallow waters, the Barry's crew decided to make the Japanese Kamikaze planes pay another price. The
crew loaded inside the hull of the sinking Barry, hundreds of metal barrels causing the ship to rise almost normally to the surface. Dr. Jackson said at least three other
Kamikaze suicide pilots crashed their Kamikaze planes into the sunken Barry after that, unaware that the ship had already been abandoned by the crew.
"I don't know what would have happened to me had I been inside one of those barrels," Dr. Jackson said with a boyish grin. "But, it's good to be here now… and alive" he
|47. The "Battle of the bulge" Caused Charlton A Miserable Christmas In 1944.
The streets of Folkston were unusually busy. People from throughout Charlton County were doing their Christmas shopping. Stapleton's Drug Store was open late on Saturday night,
December 16, 1944.
Across the street, locals were swapping stories in front of the Suwannee Store and L. E. Stokes and Son's general store. World War Two had been going well for the Allies with
American troops sweeping across France, liberating friendly troops from Nazi prison camps where the Germans had held some for years.
Press releases told of heroism by several hometown citizen-soldiers. Sergeant W. L. Huling, Jr. of Folkston had just completed the 85th mission of his B-17 flying fortress, the Rum Dum. An Associated Press story quoted. Huling, the radioman and waist gunner after that historic 85th mission over Germany. "We put the old Fort through her mission without any trouble." She never turned back and is still as good as ever."
Huling had two brothers, Ben, a navy frogman, and Joe, a navy signalman aboard ship, serving in the navy during that war. Their mother, Mrs. Winnie Huling, displayed a sheer linen
cloth in the front window of her First Street home. It had three blue stars, indicating three from the home in the armed forces. All three survived years of war action to return home to Folkston.
On the homefront, people of Charlton County were beginning to see victory in sight after years of worrying about relatives, rationing and deprivation. It was beginning to sound a
lot like Christmas in early December of 1944.
Then, like lightning, on December 16, 1944, bad news struck home. A German counterattack in the Ardennes was threatening to take the victory from the Allies. Adolph Hitler took
the Allies by surprise as he launched a sharp counterattack in the Ardennes. Hitler had hoped to reverse recent setbacks of his troops in Belgium and France and drive through Brussels all the way to Antwerp.
The Fuhrer threw three armies of at least 20 divisions into the assault. The battle became known as the "Battle of the Bulge." It would prove to be Hitler's last offensive thrust
of World War Two.
On the streets of Folkston and inside the stores and homes, glee turned to gloom. People could see more years of suffering, sending relatives into service, and worse of all,
uncertain about the outcome of the war.
The Charlton County High School's graduating class had no males. All had gone to war. Automobiles were at least 4 years old, and most of them had slick tires and empty gasoline
tanks. But, through it all, the Charlton County homefront stood tall. Ladies sewed sweaters and scarves for those in service. Homemade fruitcake and cookies were on the way to hometown servicemen throughout the world. In the Folkston Post
Office, Post Master Edgar Allen was urging early mailing. His assistant, Lucille Pearce, lost a son, Gene, fighting with the U.S. Army in Italy.
Youngsters, too young for service, gathered in Folkston's Blue Willow Café, to listen to the jukebox and drink milk, lemonade, coffee and tea. Coca-Cola and other soft drinks were
not available because of the war effort.
In Dick Stroup's Sinclair service station, the Charlton County draft board met monthly to pick the men who were to be drafted. Stroup was the secretary of the draft board. The men
would leave for service just across the street, from the Greyhound bus depot run by Woodrow Pickren. Twice monthly mothers and fathers saw their sons get aboard the busses headed for induction centers.
Indeed, the German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge brought sadness to the people of Charlton County. Christmas of 1944 would be one of the saddest of the war as news
commentators like Gabriel Heater told of "bad news tonight."
Things began to turn for the embattled allies when skies cleared over Belgium and France to allow cargo planes to drop sorely needed food and ammunition to the encircled troops at
Bastogne. General George Patton's tanks would break through the German lines to relieve the entrapped Americans. On December 29, 1944, the battle of the bulge ended. But, the German offensive claimed thousands of American lives and spoiled
the nation's wishes for a Merry Christmas.
The Battle of the Bulge at Christmas time of 1944 will be an unforgettable part of the 20th Century for those who were there, and for the Homefront in Charlton County.
Homeland's Arthur Bennett craved adventure…got it in World War Two
battles on Navy Carriers
Lieutenant Commander Arthur Bennett, Homeland Native, saw his flight squadron involved in heavy Pacific fighting. His Squadron took part in secret mission when Joseph P. Kennedy,
Jr. was killed. Photos show him when he first enlisted, and near retirement as Lieutenant Commander. USS Bunker Hill in photo was one of Bennett's carrier bases.
In Homeland, Georgia, where he lived, Arthur Bennett had shown an affinity for "tinkering" with automobile engines. His neighbors said he had a knack for making things work.
Luckily, this was a trait that would serve Bennett well in the years ahead. He worked at what he called a "grease monkey's" job in Folkston with two Homeland neighbors, Louie and Orlando Roberts. The two brothers operated Roberts
Brothers Ford on Folkston's West Main Street. Bennett also worked with the local telephone company for almost two years.
It was a hot June in 1941 in Charlton County. Many Charlton County men had gone to work in shipyards in Jacksonville and Brunswick. The Blue Willow Café on Folkston's Main Street was a favorite hangout for the teenage crowd. Verne Pickren's Rockola jukebox blasted out with songs like Hut Sut Song and As Time Goes By.
Bennett was 20 years old and eager for adventure. The United States was gearing up for a possible war as Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany devoured Europe one country at a time. "Join the Navy" posters in store windows beckoned to Arthur Bennett and millions of other American young men. The navy offered adventure and the chance to serve the nation. Bennett succumbed to the plea. He sold his two-tone brown 1936 Ford coupe to Kirby Jones and signed up with the U. S. Navy.
That was the beginning of an excitement-filled 28-year career for the youthful Homeland resident; years that would see Bennett rise in rank from an Apprentice Seaman to Lieutenant
Commander before finally taking his honorable discharge.
Six months after Bennett became a navy seaman, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America was plunged into World War Two. Bennett's craving for action and adventure had come sooner
than he expected.
The adventurous sailor soon found his niche in the navy. Rapidly moving
through Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Illinois, and Aviation Machinist
Mate's school in Chicago, and a brief period at Yellow Water Gunnery
School at what is now Cecil Field in Jacksonville.
Bennett soon got into the thick of battle on a half-dozen different aircraft carriers. His training had equipped him well for assignment to a flight squadron moving from one
aircraft carrier to another in the action-filled Pacific as he supervised the maintenance of the TBM Torpedo Bombers of his squadron.
The aircraft carriers on which Bennett and his torpedo bomber squadron served reads like a "who's who" in the pacific fighting of World War Two. The USS Yorktown, The USS
Bunker Hill, The USS Boxer, and The USS Princeton saw Bennett and his flight squadron assigned to their flight crews.
Bennett and his squadron of patrol torpedo bombers were in the thick of the fighting in the Pacific as the bombers flew from the Bunker Hill and the Yorktown, two of
World War Two's most decorated carriers.
Japanese Kamikaze pilots desperately aimed their suicide planes toward the carriers in the torrid fighting off the chain of Pacific Islands. Bennett, at a recent 90th birthday party for his sister, Mrs. Celeste Dinkins, modestly protested, "I was no hero." His service record and campaign ribbons say otherwise.
Nevertheless, it was off the coast of England, in the Atlantic, that Bennett's flight squadron had a rendezvous with destiny. It was code-named "Operation Aphrodite", a
highly secret mission of the Allies, testing radio controlled bombers flying from England to German targets in France.
Bennett and his torpedo bomber squadron of navy PB4Y-1s were to act as mother control planes maintaining radio control over the B-17 and B-24 bombers loaded with 21,000 pounds of
The American bomber pilots were to bail out over the coast of England, leaving the bomb-laden plane to seek its target by radio control from the mother planes of Bennett's
squadron. The planes aimed at launch sites of the V-2 German missiles in France. Those rocket-bombs handed England terrible punishment in the latter days of World War Two.
It was August 12, 1944; a number of Army planes had failed to successfully control the unmanned bombers. Now the navy decided it would try.
Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., an experienced navy pilot, and the eldest son of Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, was being groomed by his family to make a run for the U.
S. Presidency after the war. Kennedy was the pilot aboard a Liberator Bomber. His co-pilot and only other crew member was Lieutenant Wilford J. Willy, a close friend of Arthur Bennett.
Kennedy and Willy were to bail out of their Liberator drone bomber before it left the coast of England. Two mother planes were to radio-control guide the bomber in a crash
dive on the target, a V-2 rocket-launching site in Normandy.
The airplane was in flight with routine checking of the radio controls proceeding satisfactorily, when at 6:20 p.m. on August 12, 1944, two explosions blasted the "drone"
resulting in the death of Kennedy and his co-pilot.
No conclusion as to the cause of the explosion has ever been reached. Kennedy was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Air Medal.
Bennett said although he was not actively participating in that attempted radio control mission of Kennedy's plane, it was his flight squadron's mission.
The mission was attempting to radio control the drone bombers into France and Germany after the American pilots bailed out over the coast of England. Operation Aphrodite was never successfully concluded.
Those action-packed days of World War Two are still engraved in the memory of 78-year old Arthur Bennett who now lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, a career away from the quiet
surroundings of Sardis in Charlton County where he was born, and in Homeland where he grew up.
Arthur Bennett, after World War Two ended, went on to serve in the Korean War with the navy aboard the Valley Forge stationed off the Korean coast.
Bennett remained in the navy for the Korean War, with his squadron aboard the USS Valley Forge. Bennett retired as a Lieutenant Commander in 1969.
He says now that he is enjoying the tranquil years of retirement, and visiting again the Charlton County area where he grew up. Bennett left home in June of 1941 seeking travel
and adventure. He got both.
|49. Lawrence J. Wildes, Sr. Served With Distinction
A project of VFW Post 9560.
He died at College Park, near Atlanta on July 13 this year at age 82. Charlton County native Lawrence J. Wildes, Sr. But, it was Wildes' military history before and during World
War Two that set him apart from others.
Lawrence Wildes' parents, Mack and Kate Wildes of Folkston, nine brothers and two sisters preceded him in death. A sister, Mrs. Aderine Wildes Reynolds, of St. Marys, survives her
brother, as does his wife of 51 years, a son and a daughter.
In 1934, Lawrence Wildes was the first native son from Folkston to join the U.S. Navy since World War One. Wildes served 4 years on one of America's first aircraft carriers, the USS Ranger, CV4, followed by duty aboard the USS Lexington.
In 1937, Wildes was a member of the navy search team trying to find missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to set a world non-stop
record in her Lockheed Electra. No trace of her has ever been found.
In 1940, at the end of his tour of duty in the navy, Wildes again volunteered. This time it was to serve in the U.S. Army. The United States, at that time, had not yet entered
World War Two. Wildes served with distinction throughout that war, and until its conclusion in 1945.
Wildes, in World War Two, saw duty with the original 2nd Armored Division, commanded by General George S. Patton as the Americans swept through Europe, fighting in five major battles, and winning for him five medals, one decoration, and two unit citations. Few soldiers could match Wildes' citations for bravery.
Wildes saw battle action in 5 major battles in Central Europe, The Ardennes-Alsace (Battle of the Bulge) Rhineland, Northern France, and Normandy. Wildes hit Omaha beach at
Normandy on June 9, 1944, (D-Day- plus 3) while the allies were struggling to keep from being pushed back into the sea by German forces.
With Patton in Europe during World War Two, Wildes managed the machine shop section of Company A. He invented a machine gun shell extractor for which his commander was awarded the
Legion of Merit.
During the fierce fighting in Europe, Wildes must have thought of the peace and tranquility of his home in Charlton County with his family, in the section that was once Center
Village. His father, a prominent pioneer of Charlton County, Mack Wildes was the official Charlton County surveyor and ran a blacksmith shop near his home before, at the age of 17, young Lawrence Wildes signed up with the U.S. Navy.
Following his discharge from service, Lawrence Wildes served as Post Commander of VFW Post 2811 in Gainesville, Florida when he was one of the three original negotiators to have
the VA Medical Center built across from the University of Florida's Teaching Hospital.
Lawrence Wildes co-owned the Wildes and Reynolds Lumber Company before being re-hired at the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (now CSX) where he was employed 35 years as a cross tie
and timber inspector.
|50. C. L. Passieu Received Distinguished Flying Cross Medal After Heroic Missions Over Japan
Some of the swagger is gone. He no longer walks upright. In fact, he mostly moves around his home in Folkston in a wheel chair, but the same electric tinkle lights up his eyes.
Flash back a half-century, Flight Officer C. L. (Louie) Passieu
of Folkston was in his usual combat position aboard an air force B-29; the "Raidin" Maiden," America's newest and biggest bomber. Passieu and his crew looked six-miles below, on enemy ground, the home island of Japan. The Raidin' Maiden dodged anti-aircraft fire and ack-ack bringing shrapnel death from the guns below.
Passieu was the flight engineer aboard the massive bomber. His duties kept up with the functions of his aircraft. Passieu's back was turned to the pilot and co-pilot as the three
sat in the cockpit of the lumbering B-29 Superfortress. This was the usual position of a flight engineer, monitoring giant instrument panels that the pilot and co-pilot were unable to see because they looked out the big plane's
From his 30,000 foot-high platform in the sky, Passieu must have thought back to earlier days in Folkston when he worked at his father's Chevrolet agency, Passieu Chevrolet
Company. Young Passieu had teethed on the steering wheel of a cut-down Buick convertible that he and his father's mechanics had converted into a wrecker. Passieu was seen week after week, driving the dark blue Buick-wrecker a hundred miles
an hour, trying to outrace other Folkston wreckers to the scene of an automobile accident. Most happened at
"dead man's curve" on U. S. 1, north Charlton County. Passieu always won the wrecker race. He hooked his crane onto the wrecked car and towed it back to his father's garage in Folkston, to command a healthy wrecker bill.
But, it was in the long ago of World War Two that the daring and bravado of Passieu played a leading role in America's battle against Japan. Passieu had followed the development
of the B-29 from the drawing board through its assembly. Now he would get to test out the bomber he so often bragged about. It had better be good. His life depended on it.
Passieu was stationed on the Pacific Island of Tinian deep in the Mariannas, the same island from which later the Enola Gay, another B-29, ended World War Two. The Gay's pilot,
Colonel Paul Tibbets, dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima: awakening the world to the terror of atomic power. Passieu's flight crew was stationed at the opposite end of the island from Tibbets, who, with his group were
practicing for that monumental explosion in 1945.
Passieu's bombing missions into the heartland of Japan had become almost routine: dropping conventional bombs on industrial targets and returning to Tinian to get ready for the
next bomb run. Passieu's plane had aboard the famous George Putnam as public information officer. Putnam was married to Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviatrix who disappeared in the Pacific in 1937 while seeking a world flying record.
Passieu called Putnam "Put," as did the rest of the crew.
Often the Raidin'" Maiden did not make the trip back to Tinian in one flight. On one return flight, Passieu and his crew were chased by Japanese fighter planes. They "turned on
the coal," to escape. That exercise drained the precious fuel as the plane flew over China. Passieu and his crew elected to crash-land the huge bomber on a small fighter strip in the heart of China, where the Japanese were seizing one
airfield after another in rapid succession.
Passieu's pilot called to Passieu,
"How much fuel left, Chuck?" Passieu replied sarcastically, "About enough to fill your cigarette lighter." The decision was quickly made to attempt a crash landing on the tiny fighter airstrip in the interior of China, precariously held, at that time, by Americans. Among the troops at the China base was a neighbor of Passieu's from Folkston, Dick Mays. Mays was a radar operator for the American airmen holding the China fighter airstrip. Passieu's B-29 circled tightly among the mountains surrounding the airbase, losing altitude and speed. Still coming in "hot," the B-29 blew out all its tires as it braked hard on the super-short fighter strip, halting just short of the end of the runway. Miraculously, no one was injured on the Raidin's Rough Landing. Immediately, Passieu's crew sent fighter planes to another airbase for new tires for the B-29. They had to get away by daylight. The Japanese were on the outskirts of the fighter base, and the next day Japanese troops would claim the base from the Americans, who fled just ahead of the on-rushing Japanese.
Passieu never got to visit with Mays, as time was too short. The B-29 strained for take-off just at daybreak, the morning following the landing. Mays and his Flying Tigers air
group barely got out ahead of the overrunning Japanese forces. Passieu's B-29 cleared the tall mountains just as the sun was breaking over the horizon. The rising sun of the universe was in the front windshield, while the rising sun of
Nippon in the rear view mirror.
Such heroics were almost commonplace with Passieu. The Air Force Times and Stars and Stripes newspapers wrote several stories where Passieu led his charmed life in that far-off
Pacific during those World War Two years. Passieu, for his heroics received the nation's Distinguished Flying Cross medal with oak leaf clusters.
As NBC newsman, Tom Brokow, writes in his book, "The Greatest Generation". World War Two was America's greatest adventure. With 19 Charlton County young men going off to war and
never returning, Passieu was among the lucky. He lived to "come home," run a Chevrolet Agency in Folkston, and be elected Mayor of Folkston, and Chairman of the Charlton County Commission.
Today, still an active member of the Charlton County VFW Post, Passieu's adventures aboard a B-29 over Japan in World War Two, are mostly unknown to the five generations born
since those dark days of World War Two.
The Raidin'' Maiden, after years of war service, was relegated to a scrap heap. This nation owes so much to the bright aluminum bomber, and to the crew who risked their lives on
scores of occasions flying over the heartland of an enemy Japan.
Wheelchair bound, or not, the smile still comes on Passieu's 80-plus year-old face when World War Two is mentioned. The smile also comes when mention is made of those races in
that cut-down Buick wrecker, chasing down a rain-soaked Dixie Highway in 1937, on the way to Mattox's Dead Man Curve, in search of a towing-fee, so badly needed in those depression years.
Indeed, Passieu and his generation are truly the Greatest Generation of Americans. The American flag today still flies freely, in a nation made great by the like of Passieu
and his generation fighting all around the world in World War Two.
Mrs. Winnie's Wartime Scrapbook: A Mother's Treasure
By Jack Mays
Charlton County Historian
The Late Mrs. Winnie Davis Huling
The home on Folkston's south First Street was unpretentious. It had once been the home of one of the
town's first physicians, Dr. J. C. Wright. Now it was the home of Walter and Winnie Huling, their three sons and a daughter. The time was the years of World War Two, 1942 through 1945.
First Street had its share of boys and girls
fighting the Nazis, Italians and Japanese on battlefields all around the world. On a four-block section of First Street were numbers of homes with boys and girls in service: W.
R. Allen, Jr., Jim and Gene Pearce, Zelton Conner, Jimmy Phillips, Fred Askew, Jr., Jack and Dick Mays, D. L. Stewart, Jr., Dimon Page and his sister, a nurse, Jewel,
and the Huling home with three boys in the military, W. L. Jr., Ben and Joe. No other First Street home had so many.
W. L. Huling, Jr. was a waist gunner aboard a
B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, the Rum Dum. A Master Sergeant with the 8th Air Force, the 385th Bomb Group and its 550th Squadron, the
oldest Huling son on almost a hundred occasions left a fog-covered airfield in England, flew over the White Cliffs of Dover and the English Channel into hostile enemy territory
in France and Germany. On most missions German fighter planes attacked the Rum Dum. Huling would train his machine gun out a window of the big bomber and fight off
the attackers, often seeing his bomber hit by enemy fire and anti-aircraft fire coming up from the ground.
The middle son, Ben, was one of the Navy's first Frogmen. It was his job to
swim with goggles and airtank beneath enemy shore installations, attaching explosives and destroying those installations. All under the threat of enemy ground fire and mines
planted near the installations. Now those frogmen are called Navy Seals. Ben's missions were among the most dangerous tasks asked from Navy volunteers.
Miraculously he survived scores of dangerous missions to return home safely.
Joe, the youngest Huling
son, was a Signal aboard navy warships. He
stood watch on the
communication deck, using wig wag and signal
lights to communicate among other ships in
the formation. When he completed his navy
hitch, he switched over to the U. S. Army.
He too returned safely.
All during those dark four years of World War Two, Mrs. Winnie Huling kept a
scrapbook made up of newspaper clipping about local boys who, like her sons, were fighting for their country all over the world. In that scrapbook were stories of those from
Charlton County who died in battle. They commanded a special place in the pale gray scrapbook. Mrs. Huling knew most of them personally, and suffered right along with their
families when they received those dreaded telegrams beginning "We regret to inform you…"
All through the war, Mrs. Huling took it upon herself to visit with her
neighbors along Folkston's First Street, speaking words of comfort and encouragement to other mothers, like herself, who lived in daily fear for their son's safety.
Above: Mrs. Huling's treasured scrapbook she kept during World War Two. Mrs. Huling had three sons, W. L. Jr., Ben, and Joe fighting in that war. W. L. Jr.,
was a waist gunner aboard the B-17 Rum Dum, flying bombing missions over Nazi Germany, Ben was an Underwater Demolistion Specialist (Seal) with the Navy, and Joe was also aboard a navy warship.
The three sons returned home safely, but all three are now deceased. The flag at right, was hung proudly in Mrs. Huling's living room window while her boys were fighting in that war.
People passing in front of the Huling
home on First Street looked at the small red, white and blue banner that hung in the front window, proudly displaying three stars: one for W. L. Jr., one for Ben, and one for Joe. Some were amazed at the
courage of the mother who daily prayed for their safe return. Her faith kept her strong. Her faith never diminished as long as she lived.
Those dark days of World War ended in
late 1945. The three Huling sons returned home to re-start their lives. The close-knit family often, around the dinner table, talked of those dangerous years, and praised their mother for her courage and
the daily letters she wrote, that meant so much to them as they went about the business of keeping America free.
The legend of Winnie Davis Huling, who first came to Folkston aboard a
train with her family from Harris County, will endure for years to come. The relatives will forever treasure Mrs. Winnie's Scrapbook, its cover no doubt spotted with the tears of
an anxious mother who never knew whether her sons would safely return during the years of the Greatest Generation.
|52. Folkston, Ga., almost became Okefenokee, Ga. In the 1960s
By Jack Mays, Charlton County Historian
Okefenokee, Georgia? What an outrageous suggestion. Nevertheless there it was on a non-binding referendum facing voters in the City of Folkston in the mid-1960s.
Back then, the Folkston mayor and city council were gung-ho to promote the Okefenokee entrance, and apparently willing to go to most any lengths to do just that. Those were the
years that the Okefenokee Parkway was created in the Georgia General Assembly; that too aimed at bringing in visitors to the great swamp through Folkston.
The designation as a parkway through the legislature was necessary to get highway marker signs on Interstate 95 in Camden County. Highway officials refused to put up marker signs
unless the route was a parkway. The mayor and council lost no time in getting it done, although some changes were made in the legislature at the insistence of Waycross interests.
Originally Okefenokee Parkway was to begin on I-95 at Kingsland, extend westerly to Folkston, then on state highway 121 to the entrance to the Okefenokee. Waycross interests
insisted that it also turns north on U. S. 1 in Folkston and extends on to the Okefenokee Swamp Park south of Waycross. The compromise was agreed to in order to get the bill through the legislature. Now the parkway looks like a slingshot,
dividing at Folkston, north to near Waycross and south to the Okefenokee entrance south of Folkston.
But the ultimate promotion tool was to be tried by the Folkston city government: changing the name of the town to "Okefenokee, Georgia."
The idea was bantered around in the council meetings for months. The proposal had the support of Charlton County Herald editor Doyle Lewis and other development-minded residents. Little opposition was heard, although the mayor and council were sure it would surface. The members decided to take the plunge. They unanimously passed a resolution supporting the idea and named a date for a citywide voter referendum on the question. Then all hurrah broke open.
Residents of Folkston lined up on two sides: those for and those against. The battle lines were drawn and no one in the town was bashful about their feelings about the
Supporters had colorful auto bumper stickers made up, asking voters to "Vote "Yes" on Okefenokee, Georgia". Many found their way onto bumpers. Opponents sprang up like mad; and, some were mad.
The news media seized onto the breaking story. Here was a small Georgia town that had been called Folkston since its creation and now an upstart mayor and council was pushing changing that hallowed name to Okefenokee, Georgia.
How brazen can people get?
Jacksonville television stations interviewed people throughout the city to report their thoughts. Those opposed did so angrily. The Associated Press carried the continuing story in worldwide coverage.
Folkston's mayor and council got behind the proposal. Several spoke to churches pushing the proposal. Just as many defied the proposal.
An open debate took place in the High School Gymnasium with all students there. Bob Adkins, a local funeral director, took the lead in the debate, decrying the shameful disregard
the proponents had for Folkston's founding fathers. On the opposing side of the debate was Folkston Mayor Jack Mays. Mays argued how better to promote the Okefenokee at Folkston than changing the city's name. Applause from the students
weighed in on the side of the opponents.
Some Folkston motel owners argued that they would have to change the name of their highway road signs, and besides, few knew how to spell Okefenokee. Too, they would have to have new letterheads printed, an added expense.
Folkston banker William Mizell paid for a full-page advertisement in the Charlton County Herald, berating the "young Turks" for even suggesting such a thing. Mizell wrote,
"I was born in Folkston and I want to die in Folkston". He did. The proposal failed by about a two to one margin.
Bitterness surfaced between the two sides. A Folkston physician, Dr. Herman Harper, reportedly buttonholed his patients urging them to vote "no." The issue severed long time
friendships. There was no forgiving the "Young Turks," as that city council was called, for such a disregard of sentiment. After all, Folkston had been named for a Waycross railroad doctor, Dr. William Brandon Folks. To change the name
would be an insult to his memory.
Those for the change argued just as energetically for the change. They spoke of the post office having the name "Okefenokee, Georgia" on its front, and of outgoing mail bearing
the postmark as Okefenokee, Georgia. How much would that advertising cost if promoters had to pay for it?
Those against argued that people in Waycross were laughing at Folkston for such a brazen idea. "We are being ridiculed," opponents said. Within weeks, when the proposition failed
at the polls, Waycross had a sub post office established at their Okefenokee Swamp Park. Letters mailed from there by visitors have their cards and letters postmarked "Okefenokee, Ga."
That bitterness was slow to go away. For years afterward, the mayor and council members were bad-mouthed for bringing up such a wild proposal.
The City of Folkston remains named Folkston, and Waycross has a post office named Okefenokee, Georgia. They will probably stay that way for a long time to come. Those familiar
with that election question can testify to its fierceness, and to the price paid by those that proposed the change.
53. Stanley Mattox, Sheriff in 1903, Hanged Two, Bringing An End to
Outdoor Public Hangings in Georgia
Old Charlton County Jail.
1903: The year Henry Ford formed his automobile company and sold his first Ford. Pepsi Cola registered its trademark, and in Charlton County, Sheriff Stanley Mattox
would superintend the hanging of two men on gallows built behind the Charlton County jail.
Those two outdoor public hangings in Folkston helped bring an end to what had
become public spectacles. They became festive occasions as men and women and children came from far and wide to witness the executions. That same year, the Georgia Legislature abolished public outdoor hangings and ordered them held indoors
in future years.
Sheriff Stanley Mattox, who fathered a future Pulitzer Prize winning author, never again
offered for public office. He carried out his orders to hang two convicted murderers, just two months apart. Dennis Miller was first to be hanged and just two months later
Mattox would superintend the hanging of another murderer, Henry Owens, from the same gallows. The 1903 Charlton Superior Court term saw the conviction of three on murder charges.
Two Folkston doctors, Dr. J. C. Wright and Dr. J. W. Strickland witnessed the two
hangings as official witnesses, as ordered by the court.
The Charlton County jail in Folkston was under construction at the time of the
hangings. Sheriff Mattox continued to use the old stockade-jail at Traders Hill to confine prisoners while the new Folkston jail was being built.
Mattox was upset about the two hangings. He was a gentle peace-loving man whose
roots ran deep in Charlton County. Public hangings did not fit into his life style. Mattox had witnessed the last hanging at Traders Hill in 1878 of David McClain. Mattox was
just 13 at the time of that hanging, but the unpleasant experience left an indelible mark on the future Sheriff. The rope hangman's noose, used in the last two Charlton County
hangings was found in the Charlton County Clerk of Court's office, years afterward when that first Charlton County courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1927, charred but intact.
The gallows, built in at the rear of the new Charlton County Courthouse in 1903, were
dismantled when the new Charlton County jail opened in 1906. That jail had a built-in gallows that is still in the old jail today. It was never used.
Mattox had come from aristocratic relatives. His father, John McKenzie Mattox, and
his mother, Elizabeth Stafford Mattox, moved into their new home near Traders Hill from Tatnall County in 1857, just three years after Charlton County was created. Stanley Mattox's grandfather, John Mattox, fought with the Okefenokee Rifles in the
Confederate Army in the Civil War. He was wounded in battle in 1864, and was home in Charlton County, tending his wounds, when the Civil War ended. He served as Charlton County's sixth sheriff, in 1867 and 1868.
Stanley Mattox was born just months after that war ended. When his term as Charlton
County Sheriff ended, Mattox pursued a career in naval stores. One of his daughters, Lois Mattox, married a Florida attorney, Oscar Miller of West Palm Beach. She began
a brilliant journalism career, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Literature in the early 1930s for a Readers Digest story on the dangers of cigarette smoking. In World War Two, she
was an overseas war correspondent covering action of that war. She was named a Roving Editor with Readers Digest Magazine.
Stanley Mattox died in 1941, but during his lifetime, he had become a Charlton County
legend. The two hangings Mattox oversaw in 1903 helped set the stage for a halt to outdoors-public hangings in Georgia. Nothing suited Mattox more than that decision.
He had tired of the public spectacles that outdoors public hangings had become, from the first he saw while a 13 year old boy at Traders Hill to the two he oversaw on gallows in Folkston in 1903. Stanley Mattox was a gentle man.