Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Willacoochee, Georgia

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Willacoochee, Georgia


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 d├ęcor.”

I had a railroad track.  

Seriously.

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.

Willacoochee.

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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The old track once owned by the City of Willacoochee was sold to the Georgia DOT in 2005, and is now operated By a company called OmniTRAX. The agreement states that the line would continue to operate.

Anonymous said...

You might want to read back up on the meaning of the name of the town. Home of the wildcats was just a phrase used because many athletic teams from the city named themselves this. Willacoochee actually means "Garden of many waters". Similar to the name of Chattahoochee. Do you think that the river is named after wildcats, too? Might want to read up or actually look more into the history and facts than what people tell you. Might offend a native of the city, like me. BTW my uncle Lace Futch is mayor right now, just sent him a link to this. I'm sure he'll love it. ....sarcasm..

EHT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EHT said...

Thank you for the update regarding the railroad track, Anonymous. I appreciate it.

As for my second Anonymous comment....I did do re-checking regarding the meaning of Willacooche. You might want to have Mayor Futch check up on his webmaster for the town website since the town's own history page informs the public regarding the history behind the name. Gee, do you think they are being sarcastic themselves? Hmmm..... And, I'm not sure about the tone of your comment, but am I supposed to be concerned regarding the good Mayor's reaction? At any rate...thanks for taking the time to comment.

EHT said...

Oops....forgot the link in case you need it. http://www.willacoochee.com/Willacoochee_History.html

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