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"History of Charlton County," p. 23-25, Printed 1932. (Out of print)

CENTER VILLAGE OR CENTERVILLE

By

Alex. S. McQueen

From the best information obtainable, Center Village was settled about the year 1800. It achieved its importance as a trading center on account of its close proximity to Camp Pinckney, an old landing on the St. Mary’s river about two and one-half miles from Center Village.

Camp Pinckney was a landing place for the boats that plied the St. Mary’s river. Most of the supplies obtained by the inhabitants of this and the immediate northern settlements were unloaded at Camp Pinckney and hauled to old Center Village. The inhabitants of the counties of Ware, Pierce, Clinch, Appling and Coffee came to Center Village to do their trading, and also brought their produce to this old town for barter and trade.

During the fall and winter months great caravans from the sections north wended their way to old Center Village. Farmers from the settlements above came down in parties, some traveling in horse cart, some driving two and four horse teams, and others driving oxen; all bringing along staple cotton, beeswax, honey, jerked venison, cow-hides, deer-hides, furs, etc., and exchanged these products for flour, sugar, coffee, shot, powder and other commodities not produced on the farms.

Center Village quickly emerged into a metropolitan center, and was the important trade center for a large area. It was also a meeting place to settle “rows and disputes,” and those boasting their physical prowess came there to display their strength and skill. It was a meeting place for old time fights of “fist and skull,” and many a community bully met his match in a fist-fight at old Center Village. While most of the fights were “fair” combats there were several killings in the old town during its hectic career. It was also a place where the sports and dandies met in horse racing and kindred sports.

This town was settled as a direct result of the prevailing belief that a settlement on a river bank presaged malaria fever.

Among the merchants and tradesmen were: John Villalonga, Domingo Coster, Thomas Hilliard, Stephen McCall and several others, including the ever present Israelite, this one named Guggenheimer. The merchants bought the produce brought in by the farmers and sold in exchange flour, sugar, shot, powder, coffee, nutmegs, etc., and every store sold whisky. One could buy New England rum for $1.00 per gallon, or foreign whiskey for $1.25 per gallon. In those days no store was complete without several barrels of whisky.

An early historian of Georgia, in writing about Center Village, commenting upon one Stephen McCall, a merchant who boasted that he sold everything “from a hoop-skirt to a trace-chain,” and credited him with being the only “teetotaler” in the village, but some old residents shake their heads and smile when mention is made that even he was a teetotaler. This was the sane Stephen McCall who operated a large store in Coleraine for several years and lived there when Charlton County was created. His daughter married Hon. Jackson Mizell, a prominent and wealthy pioneer of Charlton County, but who removed to King’s Ferry while still a young man.

The early recorded history gives the following families as being identified with the settlement of Center Village; Vernons, Roddenberrys, Johnsons, Cains, Wainwrights, Lowthers, Bakers, Holzendorfs, Vickerys and others, including General T.H. Hilliard, John Mizell, Peter Mumford and Stephen McCall.

An old pioneer told the author this story of Center Village: “A man came from Coffee county bringing, among other commodities, a horse-cart load of chickens, and when he arrived at the Village he found no market for his chickens. He did, however, find the stores and saloons, and after imbibing rather freely he went to his cart and liberated the load of chickens on the streets. He swore that he would neither haul them back home or give them away, so turned them loose upon the streets, where they and their descendants roamed for years.”

Center Village continued to be an important trading center until after the Civil War, when it began to gradually decline. It was utterly ruined as a trading center when the first railroad was constructed between Savannah and Jacksonville, nearly fifty years ago, and it really had its inception by being a stop on the old stage coach line that made regular schedules on the old “King’s Road.” The stage-coach made the town, and the railway train ruined it,

All that is now left of old Center Village is the bare and barren site, but it has long lived in the memories of the old citizens, who still recall many “fist-fights,” horse races, murders and other exciting events. The change in freight transportation from water to rail and the passenger traffic from the state coach to trains sealed the doom of Center Village, a town of the pioneer days more important than all others in Southeast Georgia. The site is about two miles northeast from the present city of Folkston, and the land upon which the old town had its being is now owned by J.M. Wildes, county surveyor, who lives there, and a farm owned by W.R. Wainwright.

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Charlton  County Archives