Early History of Lowndes County and Valdosta , Georgia
The Seminole and
Creek Indians were the first settlers in what would later become Lowndes
County. The county's first "visitors" were Hernando de Soto and his band of
explorers, who passed through the area in 1540. In 1821, Lowndes County was
created by dividing Irwin County into two parts. A state land lottery in
1820 opened the area for settlers, and five years later, on December 23,
1825, Lowndes County was officially created by legislative act.
First Settlers - Creation of Lowndes County
In 1821 four settlers moved to that section of Georgia which is now known as
Lowndes County. Sections to the north had been settled and several counties
had been laid off. The country into which these four settlers moved their
families was a wilderness and Indians were numerous.
The first settlers found a region of gently rolling uplands with extensive
forests of pine and oak, flatwoods of longleaf pine and wire grass, and an
undulating southern section dotted with lakes and lime sinks. The fine sandy
loam of the northern part promised good crops, and a soil recognized as
productive for farming and stock raising stretched from the Withlacoochee
along the south side of Cherry Creek to Skipper Bridge and beyond to Cat
Creek. The newcomers marveled at the expanse of yellow pine.
The first settlers were James Rountree, Lawrence Folsom, Drew Vickers and
Alfred Belote. They each brought their families and made the journey in
covered wagons. Each man selected his lot of land and proceeded to erect
modest homes. Lawrence Folsom and Drew Vickers located in the northern
section of the county. They chose the high ground which was good for general
farming and excellent for raising stock.
The Coffee Road was the first major thoroughfare for settlers into south
Georgia. Commissioned by the state in 1822, General John Coffee and the
militia cut the road from Jacksonville in Telfair County to Duncansville in
Thomas County. One man who realized the opportunity opened up by the Coffee
Road was Sion Hall. He lived in Irwin County at the time of the 1820 census.
Hall and his sixteen-year-old son Enoch had come into the new region to
select a homeplace on the route. They "rambled around a while looking for a
good spot to settle to build a house and a store," eventually deciding upon
a site, Lot No. 271 in the northeast section of District 12, about two miles
north of present Morven in Brooks County. Sion Hall brought in a sawmill
that he had, along with a "good many" slaves and his horses, and cleared the
land and with the dressed lumber build a home on the west side of the Coffee
Road. He then brought in his family and household goods. After other
settlers began to arrive, Sion Hall build a store in a pine thicket across
the road from his house thus establishing the first commercial enterprise in
the county, and he provided for the needs of newcomers and travelers. The
first session of court in Lowndes County was held at the home of Sion Hall,
where the judge, jurors and the spectators sat upon logs arranged in the
yard. Hamilton W. Sharpe, who clerked in Sion Hall's store for several
years, eventually purchased Mr. Hall's interest in the store. Hamilton W.
Sharpe was very active in establishing the first post office in Lowndes
County in 1827 and became the first post master. The post office was known
as Sharpe's Store.
Soon after the opening of the Coffee Road, other settlers rapidly moved into
the area. This section of Georgia was very fertile, as it is now, and it was
easy to make a prosperous home in the new and undeveloped land. In the space
of three or four years the country had become thickly settled. About 1823
John Bryan homesteaded upon land in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule
creeks, and Washington Joyce farmed east of the Little River where he put
into operation a ferry at Miller's Bridge.
In 1825 it was decided to petition the legislature to create a new county.
The name selected for the new county was Lowndes, and at the meeting of the
General Assembly that year the act creating Lowndes County was passed.
In deciding upon a name for their county, these early settlers went outside
of their own State and elected to choose Lowndes, in honor of William Jones
Lowndes, one of the distinguished sons of South Carolina. William Jones
Lowndes was the son of Rawlings Lowndes, who was a leader in the affairs of
South Carolina during and after the Revolutionary War. The man for whom
Lowndes County was named was noted as a learned scholar and for his mildness
of disposition. He was not vigorous in health and was forced to decline the
honor of having his name placed before the people as a candidate for the
presidency of the United States at the time of the election of James Monroe
for the second term.
Lowndes County was created by cutting Irwin County into two parts. The
northern portion remained Irwin, while most of the southern portion was
called Lowndes. The new county, when originally marked out, was sixty-two
miles from north to south and forty miles from east to west. It contained
2,080 square miles. It was bounded on the north by Irwin County, on the east
by Ware County, on the south by the State of Florida, and on the west by
Settlers continued to move into the newly formed Lowndes County. Many came
from South Carolina; for example, the Howells loaded their household goods
in wagons, gathered together their children and their children's children,
their slaves, and their stock, left the Carolina Barnwell District, and
located in the southeast section of the county around Howell. Jesse Carter
settled on Lot No. 375. District 11, to the east; James McMullen on Lot No.
142, District 15, in the southwest; and Thomas M. Dees in Lots No. 26 and
27, District 11, near Mud Swamp. A. B. Shehee and Samuel Swilley lived in
the Mud Swamp area which also proved to be good farm land. Samuel Swilley
had a substantial log house on the edge of the woods and log cabins for his
slaves in the midst of his corn field. He possessed a pond with a mill whose
water power he used to grind corn, to saw logs and to gin cotton.
James Edmondson was born in Warren County, Georgia, and grew up in Bulloch
County. During the winter of 1827-1828 he came to Lowndes with his wife and
two children, living first on Lot No. 362, District. He later moved to a new
homeplace about four miles east of Hahira.
Included in the act to create Lowndes County, Lawrence Folsom, Sion Hall,
William Blair, John J. Underwood, and Daniel McCauly were appointed
commissioners for selecting a public site in the new county. Eventually the
commissioners decided on a permanent site and in 1827 the Assembly declared
Franklinville, Lot No. 20, District 11, to be the county seat. The
commissioners had chosen a place adjacent to a good spring on the
Withlacoochee River near Skipper Bridge and close to the homes of Elias
Skipper, Francis Rountree, and a number of Parrishes, a few miles east of
what is now Hahira. William Smith, who later opened the first hotel at
Troupville, was the first settler of Franklinville. Mr. Smith was appointed
postmaster at Franklinville in 1828 and served there until he became
postmaster at Troupville in 1837. John J. Underwood, attorney-at-law, John
and James Matthis, Martin Shaw, who was sheriff of Lowndes in 1836-1837, and
Aaron Smith were also Franklinville residents. Franklinville was made up of
only a few houses and three log buildings, the court house, the post office
and a store. Residents of the area still did most of their trading in
Tallahassee, St. Marks, and Newport, Florida. Court convened for the first
time in the new log public building at Franklinville for the May term 1829.
Franklinville proved unsatisfactory both as a business location and as the
public site, and by 1833 a new county site was decided upon.
Lowndesville - Troupville
By 1833 the appointed commissioners had all resigned or refused to act, and
the justices of the inferior court appointed new commissioners to fix upon a
new county site. First selected was Lowndesville in Lot No. 109, District 12
near Ousley, south of U. S. Route 84. Lowndesville proved to be no more
satisfactory than Franklinville, so once more the citizens of Lowndes
shifted the county seat. A new commission composed of Samuel M. Clyatt,
William Folsom, William Henry, Jarrel Johnson, John Knight, John Lindsey and
Henry Strickland favored a location at the junction of the Withlacoochee and
Little Rivers, and in 1837 Troupville became the county site.
Troupville was named in honor of Governor George M. Troup, one of Georgia's
most noted governors. Governor Troup was a passionate defender of States
Rights, and thought nothing of telling the United States to mind its own
business when there was trouble in the State with the Creek Indians and the
Federal Agents wanted to come in and take part in settling the difficulties.
During this time many new settlers were coming in and the entire county was
being rapidly developed. There were several splendid farms near Troupville
as well as in other parts of the county, and the residents of Lowndes County
were becoming known for their wealth and progress.
There are many names still common in Lowndes and other counties of Georgia
which were well known among the first settlers. When Troupville was settled
among the first to move in were William Knight, Benjamin Sirmans, Henry
Hightower, Levin Green, Henry Underwood, Thomas and Joshua Griffin and T.O.
Among the prosperous planters living near Troupville and making that town
their trading headquarters were Ivy Simmons, Matthew Young, Minchen
Bradford, Berry Jones, I. H. Tillman, Frank Jones, C. H. Dasher, James
Shanks, Jonothan Studstill, Granville Bevil, Beni Boyd, Israel Walthauer,
General DeLoach, the Wisenbakers, Knights, Carters, McCalls, Spains, Belotes,
Rountrees, and Folsoms.
The new town of Troupville became the major access to the new state of
Florida, therefore, it thrived. The settlement soon became the leading town
in this section of the state and new families moved in rapidly. Among those
coming in were Dr. William Ashley, Dr. Henry Briggs, Albert Converse, Willis
Allen, William Bradford, Thomas B. and Joshua Griffin, William Smith,
William Newborn, Tom Holton, Duncan Smith, Hiram Hall, Morgan Swain, John
Towls, Col. Enoch Hall, Ludwick Miller, John Tison, James McCardel, Moses
Smith, Chas. C. Morgan, Chas. S. Rockwell, H. W. Sharpe, Love Green, Frank
Rountree, and the Sirmans.
Among the first lawyers in Troupville were Charles S. Rockwell, T.O.
Townsend, J. J. Underwood, Charles C. Morgan, James W. Patterson, and
Powhatan B. Whittle.
Dr. William Ashley and Dr. Henry Briggs were the first doctors. Mr. William
Smith kept the first hotel and was the first postmaster. Mr. Mose Smith had
the first store; Mr. Duncan Smith was the first county clerk; Rev. H. W.
Sharpe was the first preacher and Morgan Campbell was the first tax
Creek Indian War
The Indians had given the early settlers some trouble, but there were not
very many Indians in this immediate section, and as a result, the settlers
did not have much trouble with them as was had in some other sections of the
state. However, from time to time there would be fighting.
One battle of consequence between the Indians and settlers occurred at
Brushy Creek in 1836. The scene of the battle was in that section of the
state now included in Berrien County. A number of residents of Lowndes
County took part in the battle.
The Indians had been giving more than the usual amount of trouble for some
time. General Scott was in charge of a force of men in that section of the
state about the Chattahoochee River, and he was making a determined effort
to drive the Indians out. Accordingly, they were passing through the north
end of Lowndes County in large numbers on their way to Florida to join the
Seminoles. After several attacks by these passing Indians the call was sent
out for volunteers and a number of well known residents of Lowndes County
responded. A company of militia was organized under Colonel Henry Blair,
Captains Enoch Hall, Levi J. Knight and Hamilton W. Sharpe. Mindful of the
threat, Colonel Blair reported the approach of 2,000 Indians on their way
toward Lowndes County and requested a hundred muskets, cartridge boxes, and
ammunition to protect the county's exposed position. Before the governor
could respond with arms or men, Lowndes countians fought the battle of
Brushy Creek, which took place July 10, 1836. Levi J. Knight described the
fight to the governor, who later commended Knight and his comrades for their
bravery. Knight wrote that both Enoch Hall and Hamilton Sharpe were in
charge of companies of militia. In the course of tracking the Indians
through Lowndes, fifteen men commanded by Captain Sharpe formed a battalion
with thirty-one men from Thomas County after they discovered Indians in the
fork of the Little River and Big Warrior Creek. Following the trail for
three miles down the east side of the river, Sharpe and his soldiers
encountered about sixty warriors and their families. In the ensuing fight,
Captain Sharpe lost one man, Mr. P. Folsom, and one wounded, when he was
forced to retreat. Reinforced by the remainder of the battalion, the Lowndes
men pursued the Indians for another three miles and found them on a pine
ridge, their rear protected by a cypress pond, and in their front a wide,
open, boggy meadow. A general engagement commended about 9 o'clock a. m. and
after a severe fight for two hours, the Indians were completely routed, with
a loss of twenty-two Indians and two Negroes killed, that were seen, and
many wounded. Of the militia, Bartow Ferrell of Thomas County and Edwin D.
Shanks of Lowndes County were killed and nine wounded.
Norman Campbell, John McDermott, Robert N. Parrish, Pennywell Folsom, Ashley
Lawson, Edwin D. Shanks, West Roundtree and others were among those going to
the battle from around Troupville.
The successful result of this fight soon became known far and wide, and the
Indians never gave the settlers of South Georgia any more trouble. An
occasional party was seen, but none of them proved troublesome and the
country was soon entirely free of Indians.
Growth of Troupville - Lowndes County
Troupville continued to grow rapidly and soon became a town with stores,
residences, mechanic shops and churches. And after a time a court house was
built. In a short while the town became the trading center of this section.
In the 1840 census Lowndes County was recorded as having 4,475 white people
and 1,662 Negroes. Several saw mills, grist mills, rice mills, a good many
stores and other industries were recorded. The taxable property of the
county was well over two million. By the year 1842 there were about five
hundred inhabitants in Troupville. The court house stood in the center of
the big square, and the jail, a "grocery" and Smith's stables were on the
back of the lot. The court house was a two story building, court being held
in the lower floor, while several lawyers had offices in the upper story.
There were three hotels and four stores, several mechanic shops and grist
mills, and homes for twenty families. Among the storekeepers were Aaron and
Moses Smith. William Smith operated a hotel across the street from the
courthouse called that he called "Tranquil Hall," and he and his wife were
famous for their hospitality. Morgan Swain operated another hotel. Dr. Henry
Briggs, an admired physician with a large practice, had a drug store in
Troupville. Also among the buildings in Troupville were the separate law
offices of Captain Platt, M. B. Bennett and William L. Morgan. Among the
residences in the town were those of Dr. Briggs, Dr. Thomas W. Ellis, Joshua
W. Griffin, Powhatan Whittle, Moses Smith, Jr., Henry Smith, Isaac DeLyon
and Colonel Leonoren DeLyon.
There were two churches in the village at this time--a Baptist and
Methodist. Just across the Withlacoochee River stood a Primitive Baptist
church. The only newspaper published in this section of the state was edited
and printed at Troupville by Colonel Leonoren DeLyon. The paper was called
"The South Georgia Watchman." It was ably edited and was a power in this
Just across the river from the town was a clear, cool spring, known as
Morgan's Spring, as the Morgan family lived nearest to it. The spring was
famed far and wide for its purity and refreshing qualities. The stage coach
always stopped at Morgan's Spring, which was only a short distance from the
public road and near the bridge where the stage crossed in going over the
Withlacoochee River. The passengers always wanted to get out and see the
noted spring and many of them refreshed themselves with its cool waters.
Lowndes County was represented in the General Assembly by one Representative
and one Senator from 1825 until 1845. Lowndes was in the Fifth Senatorial
District when the old district system for senators went into force. This
lasted until 1853, when the new system went into effect and Lowndes was
placed in the Sixth Senatorial District.
Lowndes Countians had long anticipated the coming of a railroad and many had
invested in railroad stock believing that their investment assured the
construction of a rail line through Mill Town and Troupville. However, when
the new Atlantic and Gulf Railroad did extend its right of way from Savannah
toward Pensacola, it was on a line which ran four miles south of Troupville.
In the Georgia of 1859 location on a rail line was vital to the progress of
a town, and Lowndes Countians determined to benefit from the trade that a
railroad would bring. Therefore they had the legislature appoint
commissioners William H. Goldwire, James Harrell, John B. Stapler and Dennis
Worthington to choose a location on the rail line and in the center of the
county for the place of county business and to call it Valdosta.
In choosing a name for their county seat, the citizens of Lowndes did not
wish to transfer the name of Troupville to the new town; yet, they wished to
retain the association with the admired Governor Troup. Several names were
suggested, but it remained for Col. Leonoren DeLyon, editor of the "South
Georgia Watchman," to have the honor of suggesting the name finally
selected. Col. DeLyon suggested that the place be named for one of Governor
Troup's plantations, Val de Osta, in Laurens County. The source of the name
was a town, valley and district in northwestern Italy. De Lyon modified the
spelling to Valdosta. Throughout the years, Valdostans have maintained that
the phrase meant Vale of Beauty.
Commissioners Worthington, Stapler, Harrell, and Goldwire procured the
property for the new town. On the 12th of December 1859, for $1,250, they
purchased 140 acres in the northeast corner of Lot No. 62, District 11, from
William Wisenbaker, who did not like the railroad coming so near his farm.
Mr. Wisenbaker later moved to the Lake Park section of the county. William
Wisenbaker reserved fifteen acres of the parcel of land as a donation to the
Atlantic and Gulf Railroad Company for a right of way and for depot
purposes. If the Railroad Company did not require the entire fifteen acres,
the County Commissioners were to acquire the un-needed property at a cost of
$10.00 per acre. William Wisenbaker's home was the only residence when
Valdosta became the county seat. The one-story frame house stood on what
came to be Wells Street and faced the new Central Avenue. John T. Roberts
later purchased the home for his large family, and he added a second floor.
The commissioners set aside one acre, Block No. 15, for the court house, and
the town included the land within one mile of Block 15. They made the blocks
of the business district one acre in size and divided them into small lots.
For the residential area they marked off lots of either two acres with two
home sites or four acres with four lots each. On January 19, 1860, the
commissioners sold at public auction each lot to the highest bidder. For
example, Charles H. M. and William D. Howell bought Lot No. 1, Block 32, for
$100. The lot, which was the southeast corner of Crane Avenue and Stephens
Street, came into possession of the M. M. Caswell family. In the business
district, Dr. William Ashley secured Lot No. 7, Block 9, 45 x 90 for $175.
His was the first lot south of the alley on the west side of Patterson
Street between Hill and Central avenues. Powhatten B. Whittle and Henrietta
Goldwire bought property in the business section, James W. Patterson
purchased for $170 Lot No. 20, Block 20, which was the property across from
the court house bounded by Patterson, Valley and Ashley streets.
Subsequently Patterson sold two acres outside the downtown area to Albert
Converse for $100 and ten acres to Richard A. Peeples for $300.
The day the deed was signed by William Wisenbaker granting the railroad six
acres of land south of Hill Avenue on which to build the first station,
"Uncle Billy" Smith tore off the wing of his hotel in Troupville and moved
it to Valdosta, where he operated a small hostelry for several years. In a
few weeks Troupville, as a town, was no more. A few families, however,
remained in Troupville for some time.
At the time of the June 1860 census approximately 120 whites and 46 blacks
lived in Valdosta. James Goldwire served as postmaster, and Rufus Phillips
was a lawyer. Richard Peeples was both a lawyer and a farmer and James
Patterson also was a lawyer and a planter. Editor L. D. DeLyon emphasized
politics in his weekly Watchman, which had a circulation of 1,300. The
Pattersons and DeLyon's resided with John May, who was a merchant. R. T.
Roberds was one of the nine other merchants in Valdosta, as was George
Roberts. Living in town was farmer Albert Converse and family. Other
inhabitants of Valdosta were physician John F. Trippe, clerk of superior
court John Goldwire, and Daguerrian Wilson Boyd. Armistead Hewitt was a
mason, and Thomas Conner was a blacksmith who lived with hotel keeper Nelson
Connor. David McCall was also a hotel keeper. Two laborers and twelve
carpenters had households in Valdosta. Among them were Christopher Grace,
John Woods, William J. Knight and Jacob Ezell whose brother Thomas resided
According to tradition, on July 4, 1860, the first train came over the new
road to Valdosta. The event had been announced for weeks in advance and
extravagant preparations had been made to make the day a gala occasion. A
barbecue dinner had been prepared and crowds gathered from the entire
section to take part in the demonstration. As the crowds watched and waited
the train came puffing down the track and many a spectator felt his or her
knees give way and an almost irresistible desire to run seized them, for
this was the first train most of them had ever seen. The engine was called
Satilla No. 3, and it was the wonder of the hundreds who had gathered for
the occasion. After the Satilla had served its full number of years of
usefulness as an engine on the railroad it was purchased by the Wall Mill,
which was located about two miles east of Valdosta. It was used to pull a
logging train and many a load was hauled by the faithful old engine. For a
few years the Satilla worked faithfully when something went wrong inside and
the old engine blew up. Report of the explosion was heard for some distance
On December 7, 1860, the city of Valdosta was incorporated by the
Legislature for the election of mayor, marshal and councilmen. The citizens
chose Reuben Thomason Roberds to be the first mayor.
Willis Allen was one of those moving to Valdosta from Troupville and he was
appointed the first agent of the railroad, which was first called Savannah,
Florida & Western, but later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line. Mr.
Allen later built the hotel which was leased to Mr. Charlie Stuart and was
known as the Stuart House. This hotel was very popular with the traveling
public until it burned in 1885. The hotel was located south of the railroad,
between Ashley and Patterson Street.
Valdosta quickly became the largest community in Lowndes County. With the
coming of the railroad the town soon grew into prominence as a business and
trading center. It was largely an agricultural section and the majority of
the farmers brought their cotton and other produce to Valdosta to be
marketed. In time Valdosta became the largest inland market for sea island
cotton in the world, and it grew in wealth and population very rapidly.
In 1863 Thannie Smith, a step-daughter of Mr. Benjamin Force, refugeed to
Valdosta with her family from Rome, Georgia. She later married Emmett
Balthorp "Ballie" Wisenbaker and wrote her memoirs of her early impressions
of Valdosta in the years 1863-1865:
Valdosta was only three years old in 1863, and many of the men of the town
and county had been called into service only a year after the town came into
existence, hence the majority of the buildings were of a rather crude type.
The court house was a rough unpainted frame building, unfinished on the
inside but well lighted with windows, with a door leading into the court
room and another into the small office of the clerk. It was situated on the
corner of East Central Avenue and Ashley Streets. The building was also used
as a school house at that time. Across Patterson Street from the court
house, lawyers William Dasher and Richard Peeples had their two offices; the
post office was in this block also. On the corner of Ashley and Valley
streets, near where the first brick jail was later erected, was the jail
constructed of hewed logs. Approximately a dozen one and two-story stores
stood on Patterson Street from the court house to the railroad. Mr. S. Smith
had the largest on the southwest corner of Patterson and Central. Doctors
Briggs and Rambo had their offices and a small drugstore at the alley on the
west side of the 100 block, and Tom Griffin operated a general store on the
corner of Patterson and Hill. Across Patterson on the east side Wilson Boyd
made photographs upstairs over a store; larger frame buildings were on
Patterson on the north side of the alley. On Ashley Street there were three
store buildings on the east side. Mr. Josh Griffin owned the store on the
northeast corner of Ashley and Hill, the other two opened as barrooms just
after the war. On the west side were two buildings. In one Mr. Tom Crawford
opened a harness store in 1865 and the other was used by the Caldwell and
Parsons families as a home. On the north side of Hill Avenue between
Patterson and Ashley was another store. The Holton Hotel was around the
corner on Central Avenue near McKey Place.
The various church denominations first met in the court house, using the
building in rotation, and everybody attended church every Sunday. In 1865
the Baptists build a church on Valley Street in the middle of the block
between Ashley and Patterson which was soon destroyed by a storm. In 1868 or
1869 they erected a church on East Central Avenue. Mr. William Goldwire was
the pastor. Within a few years the Presbyterians converted a building on
Hill Avenue between Lee Street and McKey Place into a meeting house. The
Methodists first built on Valley Street behind the present First Methodist
Church. Mr. H. W. Sharpe was the pastor.
Among the refugees who came to Lowndes County and Valdosta during those
years were the Myddletons from Liberty County, Langs from Camden County,
Bessants and DeLyons from Charleston, Ralstons, Dicksons, Charltons,
Butlers, Conleys, O'Conners, Mays, Gays, and Jacksons from Savannah, Rileys,
Barnwells, Pritchards from Barnwell and Beaufort, South Carolina, Stewarts
and Downs from Darien, Archy Smiths from Marietta, the E. V. Johnsons from
Kingston, Mitchels, Jarmons, Hicks, Hamiltons and Forces from Rome. The
Parsons and Caldwell families came from Atlanta, the Peacocks came from
Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Wilsons came from Effingham County.
There were many names now well known in the county and this section of
Georgia prominently connected with the growth and development of Valdosta.
Some of these had lived in old Troupville in the earlier days and others
came in after Valdosta was founded: Dr. William Ashley, Capt. Henry Briggs,
Mr. Albert Converse, Sr., Col. Morgan, Capt. Moses Smith, Capt. Patterson,
Mr. S. Smith, Messrs. Tom and Josh Griffin, Col. Richard Peeples, Thompson
Peeples, Mr. James Goldwire, Dr. Ellis, Mr. Fred Ellis, Tompey Roberts, Col.
William Dasher, Col. Baker, Messrs. Henry and William Smith, George Roberts,
Dr. John Walker, Dr. Pritchard, Judge R.W. Phillips, Tobe Zipperer, Jordan
Tucker, William Proser, Aldine D. Boone, the Parramores, Pendletons,
Varnedoes, McKeys, Burtons, Langs, Dashers, Lanes, Rawlstons, Carmichaels
Some of the county pioneers were: Christian Herman Dasher, John Wisenbaker,
James Wisenbaker, James Burgsteiner, Bird Hightower, Frank Jones, Joseph
Harelsteiner, J. A. Dasher, Sr., Andrew Jackson Dasher and William
Interesting Facts Connected With Early Valdosta
The first store was owned by Thomas B. Griffin, located at Patterson and
Hill Avenue, and Pease & Sauls the second, followed by Mr. Mose Smith, who
had kept a store in Troupville. Mr. Albert Converse II was the first white
child born in Valdosta. Dr. Thomas W. Ellis had the first drug store on
Ashley, near Hill Avenue. Dr. Ellis was the first person buried in Sunset
Hill Cemetery. Dr. William Ashley and Dr. Ellis were the first physicians in
Valdosta. Mr. R.Y. Lane was the first banker in Valdosta. In 1861 I. H.
Tillman and C. H. M. Howell, Lowndes County delegates to Georgia's secession
convention, voted with the majority for withdrawal from the Union. In 1863
several families, refugees from the fighting in north Georgia, came to
Valdosta on the railroad and settled in the new town. Lt. Reuben T. Roberds,
who had been the first mayor of Valdosta, died at Knoxville Tennessee, as an
officer of the "Valdosta Guards" in 1863. In 1864 refugees from Liberty
County, hard hit by Sherman's march to the sea, organized what came to be
the First Presbyterian Church in Valdosta. In 1865 the first regularly
assigned full-time Methodist minister arrived in Valdosta. He was the Rev.
George Smith, a wounded and partially paralyzed Civil War veteran who sat
while preaching. James H. Pierpoint taught music in Valdosta. He was later
to compose "Jingle Bells." In 1865 Federal troops of Company "G," 103rd U.
S. Colored Troops, were stationed in Valdosta. In 1866 Samuel McWhir
Varnedoe founded the county's first real school, the Valdosta Institute. In
1867 the South Georgia Times predecessor to the Valdosta Daily Times started
publication. In 1869 fire in the office of the Ordinary, W. H. Dasher,
destroyed the records of the county. In 1869/ 1870 two fire companies were
established in Valdosta, the Patterson Fire Company (white) and the Osceola
Hook and Ladder Company (black). In 1875 a brick court house was built on
the Court House Block and was used until the present court house was
constructed in 1904-05. The Lowndes Volunteers, a home guard militia group,
was organized with uniforms modeled after West Point in 1875. In 1885 a
group of Episcopalians bought a lot and erected a chapel on East Central
Avenue. The town purchased the private Valdosta Institute, thereby
establishing a public school system in 1885. In 1889 The Georgia Southern
and Florida Railroad arrived in Valdosta from the north, expanding trade and
business greatly. In 1890 the Valdosta Videttes, a voluntary military
company commanded by James O. Varnedoe, drilled on the public square between
Ashley and Lee Streets. In 1895 The Valdosta City Council authorized the
erection of poles, wiring and other equipment by the Southern Bell Telephone
and Telegraph Company and the Valdosta Telegraph Company. The Valdosta
Street Railway Company secured the right to operate street cars on Toombs,
Patterson, Ashley, Lee, Troup, Hill Central, Crane and Gordon Streets in
1898. In 1899 the Valdosta Primitive Baptist Church was organized. B. F.
Strickland incorporated a cotton mill in August of 1899, opening with 5,000
spindles and 125 looms.