Folkston's Main Street Well and the Curfew Bell
By Lois Barefoot Mays
The little town of Folkston was experiencing a growing spurt in 1916 and discovered that the wooden water tower in the middle of Courthouse Avenue near Stapleton’s Drug Store was not large enough any more. The demand for water was more than the little tank and artesian well could accommodate. It already had pipes leading to businesses and homes, and needed more, so it was decided to build a larger, higher tower.
Madison Gibson, one of the sons of Mr. Henry Gilbert Gibson, from the Spanish Creek Settlement, was an eager teenager, ready to do most any kind of work; he was willing to learn a trade so he could make his own living. Emory Dean, Jr., his brother in law, contracted with the Folkston city council to build another, larger water tank, using the same well and keeping it in the middle of the street. Mack Wildes and W.W. Bauman were the carpenters and they chose young Gibson as their helper.
They began this project by sinking four long pilings, about 10x12 inches thick. For the heavy work of getting these in the ground, they used a mule and strong rope. After bracing the four corners the men nailed sills on the tops. When they attached flooring on the sills, this was the bottom of the new tank.
A platform was built for the men to stand on and the water tank was put together one board at a time, using very tight tongue and groove lumber. It was finished when the roof was fastened on the top, “just like the covering of a house,” Madison Gibson recalled.
“Mack and I did most of it. He was a surveyor but when he wasn’t doing that, he worked on carpenter jobs,” Mr. Gibson remembered. “As soon as the new one was built, we tore down the small water tank.” The new one was immediately called “the old eyesore.”
It was about this same time in Folkston’s history when the town’s young boys became a problem, especially after dark. “They were hanging around, chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes and cussing like men,” the city council said, and something should be done about it. So they decided to order a curfew bell, to remind the delinquents to go home after dark. The bell was ordered in February 1916 and by the middle of March it had arrived, but there was a problem. Where would they hang it so it could be heard throughout the community? They discovered the perfect place for the curfew bell – way up high on the new water tank.
When the Central Dixie Highway, part of the main street of Folkston, was paved in 1921 the water tank had to be moved. Another deeper well was dug and a higher tank was erected on the city lot. It furnished water through three-inch mains to many homes and businesses at a cost to the taxpayers of $2,000.00. Removing “the old eyesore” on Courthouse Avenue then left plenty of room for touring cars and trucks to easily travel the first paved highway through Folkston.
Memories of Charlton by Madison Gibson, p. 50
Charlton County Herald: January 8, 1915; February 25, 1916; March 17, 1916; November 14, 1919; June 4, 1920; April 29, 1921; June 3, 1921
History of Charlton County by Alex S. McQueen, p. 137-8