Austin Hickox

Charlton County Herald

September 2, 2009

Structuring and promoting the town and the 1906 Colony Company.

By December 20, 1907, Homeland’s Colony Company had been incorporated and the stockholders had elected a slate of officers and a board of executive directors.

They began a massive advertising campaign promoting land sales by mailing out flyers and through newspaper advertisements in such northern papers as those in Chicago, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, New York, Pittsburg and others. Those promotions advertised (almost bragging) the mild daily temperature in Homeland as compared to the frigid temperature up north.

Many of those that came to Homeland to live were so intrigued with the warm climate and investment opportunities here that they became stockholders themselves. As additional stockholders joined in the new venture, more land was purchased. Soon almost ten thousand acres were being surveyed and platted into lots, blocks and small farms.

When the Colony Company was first organized, a post office, railway depot and a general store were built to provide for the needs of those first few residents.

After the advertising campaign began, people came in great numbers. Almost daily, they were unloading off the trains in search of temporary lodging until they could buy or build their dream homes. Before long, rapid growth forced company founders to quicken their pace to build more homes, boarding houses, stores, a livery stable, blacksmith shop, a pressing club, and etc.

Along with all the new arrivals came the need for improved street and drainage – a monumental task in a cutover pine forest. Back then, streets were cleared and constructed mostly by hand labor using the common axe, crosscut saw and teams of horses and oxen. They did employ the use of a simple ingenious device called a stump puller. The puller was made up of a winch driven by a series of gears. The gears were turned by a twelve to fifteen foot long lever pole or sweep that was powered by horses or oxen walking in a circle much like the operation of a cane mill.

Of course, the largest stump in the area to be cleared was used as a fulcrum to anchor the puller to while pulling all the smaller ones around it. When all the stumps within reach of the pull cable had been removed they simply moved the puller to the next area and the fulcrum stump had to be dug out by hand or burned out.

Once the clearing was complete the road bed and ditches were formed by horse-drawn plows and primitive grading devices. Cement culvert pipes for street drainage were also made locally by pouring cement mixed with hand tools into a homemade mold and allowing it to set-up. Early Homeland photos show stockpiles of these pipes stacked in neat rows near the old sawmill just off Paxton Road.

The streets were laid out well, even by today’s standards. Using a grid system, the north and south bound streets run parallel to the Waycross to Jacksonville Atlantic Coast Line (now CSX) Railroad. Most of the streets were sixty feet in width, including Hazel Street which is divided by that railroad with thirty feet on the east side and thirty on the west side.

The four streets that border the City Hall Block, (originally laid out as the business district) Ohio, Pennsylvania, Central and Broadway are eighty feet in width. There is some evidence that some of the streets on the outer rim were forty feet in width.

As we travel around Homeland today, it doesn’t take long to realize that there is a history lesson written into naming of the streets. For instance, Pennsylvania and Ohio Avenues were named after the home states of some of the founding fathers. Lincoln and Davis Streets were named in honor of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Moore Street (now Park Street) was named in honor of Homeland co-founder G.W. Moore.

Many were named after locally grown trees such as Oak, Pine, Poplar, Magnolia, Maple, etc. Other streets were named after fruit-bearing trees i.e.: Pecan, Plum, Pear, Peach, Orange, Walnut and Chestnut. These fruit-bearing tree names can probably be attributed to C. W. Waughtel and John Zarfos. Waughtel and Zarfos were known to be accomplished arborists.

Having studied grafting, budding and other techniques to improve varieties, they experimented with and planted grape vineyards and pecan orchards in Homeland, many of which are still bearing fruit today. It is also quite well known that they assisted farmers, gardeners and those just wanting a yard tree or vine, in establishing improved varieties throughout Charlton County.

Next: More on structuring and providing necessities for the fast growing Colony Company town.


Charlton  County Archives