Most people had lawn ornaments of some type in their yards while they were growing up –statues, fountains, cement or wire borders around flower beds, or even the very Southern habit of using tires painted white as “lawn décor.”
I had a railroad track.
Less than 500 feet from my front door was a very busy route that left Atlanta and headed towards Newnan, Grantville, etc.
No, we didn’t own it, but the track did border my yard and was a portion of my playground as the track served as my balance beam, I counted every car of every train that went by, and allowing the train to flatten my supply of pennies was always a great way to pass the time.
For most of us the closest we will ever come to owning a railroad is the game of Monopoly. Everyone has their favorite pieces of property to buy and hang onto. For me…..it was the railroads. I considered the game to be going well if I could snag all of the railroads, the utilities and of course – Park Place.
The town of Willacoochee, Georgia owns its own railroad and holds the distinction of being the first city in the state to own a railroad. When the city received word the Georgia and Florida Railroad that ran through the city was going to be abandoned they purchased the 18 miles of track along with the right-of-way to Nashville, Georgia.
This has been a real boon to the industrial life for the little town of Willacoochee, and due in part to rail lines and a four-lane highway the town plays host to several different industries today.
Ever hear of it?
Willacoochee…the town with the funny sounding name and the town that owns its own railroad is located in Atkinson County. Amazingly it’s referred to quite often in popular media by a few characters in movies and television shows. The gym teacher featured on The Steve Harvey Show…..his mother owned land in Willacoochee while Mark Wahlberg’s character in the movie Jungle Fever was from Willacoochee. Ossie Davis playing Wesley Snipes’ father in the movie Purify made reference to being born in Willacoochee and Mrs. Towner……a character in the movie Beauty Shop spoke of Willacoochee.
While the town’s name sounds like someone’s reference to a private body part it is thought to harken back to Indian days and means “Home of the Wildcat.” The town has also been known as Danielsville….after a family who lived there.
The town is bordered by the Alapaha and Willacoochee Rivers.
One of the original settlers in Willacoochee was B.F. Summerlin who built a hotel where meals could be purchased of twenty-five cents.
My….how times have changed. Twenty-Five cents buys one piece of gum from a machine these days, doesn’t it?
During the 1930s sand was mined from the banks of the Alapaha River and shipped all over Georgia and Florida to construction sites.
Wait…..sand was shipped to Florida? Seems kind of strange, but I guess our Georgia river sand was better for construction use than beach sand from Florida.
Getting back to those railroad tracks….
The railroad gave birth to the town of Willacoochee. On November 12, 1889, the state legislature passed a law that provided the town’s boundaries as “one-half mile each way from the Brunswick and Western Railroad depot.”
It’s nice to know the town recognized the railroad gave them their start and they were willing to hang onto it to keep the town economy vibrant.
Vanishing South Georgia has a great picture of an old school at Willacoochee and the town’s history page can be found here.