FOLKSTON AND CENTRE VILLAGE
AS DESCRIBED IN 1884
[Savannah Morning News, August 6, 1884]
In the whole of Southeastern Georgia there is no place that has made more progress in so short a space of time than Folkston, Charlton County. It certainly cannot compete with those mushroom towns of Colorado or the great Northwest, for as far as our knowledge goes no large silver or gold mines have been found in its vicinity, and though we meet men bearded and tanned they certainly are not miners, for they have no top boots on, neither do they carry dirks or pistols in their belts as the regulation miner does.
On making inquiries into this evident prosperity we found the causes were internal, for though Folkston was not in existence until the Savannah, Florida and Western Railway made a station here, this led the energetic men of the district from Charlton, Camden and from Nassau, Fla. to Folkston, for they at once saw this was the business centre of this part of the country. In consequence of this knowledge we find that Centre Village, which was one of the most important settlements, having a flourishing population – being in fact, the place where the foundations of the fortunes were laid of more than one large mercantile house in Savannah with a business reputation now world-wide, is now entirely deserted. Looking over this village of the days gone by with one of the “old inhabitants”, who points out to us the stores once occupied by men who now stand in the foremost rank in commercial circles, reminds us forcibly of Gibbons’ “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, on a small scale. Centre Village has seen its day, the Roman Empire has seen its day, both are now things of the past and though to the general reader the history of Rome is of far more importance than the history of a place that was not thought of long after Rome had passed the zenith of its glory, yet the “old inhabitants” love to dwell on its history, surrounding it with all the halo of a sacred past.
On our last visit to Folkston we found many improvements and many more being talked about. Men of capital and business standing have taken up their residence there. We were asked to go over and see a large house, built very similar to the houses we have seen in our Northern towns, and we were not surprised to hear that Mr. Frank Chase was the architect and builder, a young man from Boston, Mass. This house [later was Oscar E. Raynor home place] was erected for Mr. L.L. Bedell, and it certainly is the finest house anywhere around. It was our good fortune to see the energetic proprietor, who took great pleasure in showing us over his recent acquisition, pointing out all the conveniences of his establishment. We were on the point of sympathizing with Mr. Bedell on having no bird to occupy so elegant a cage, when he told us how much he reckoned it would cost him to furnish his house, which he intended to be in keeping with the rest, for, said he, “a bridal suite must be a nice one.” We agreed with the gentleman, who said he expected to go to Savannah soon, and we guess he will be looking round some of the furniture stores. Mr. Bedell values his house at $2,000.
There was to be a ball, got up as a preliminary house-warming, by the young men of Folkston, to which we had a cordial invitation, but unfortunately we felt unable to stay.
On leaving Mr. Bedell the first place we came to was the mill [later was home site of Dr. A.D. Williams] owned by the Chase Bros. These energetic young men have lately started their mill and they assure us they are prospering beyond their expectation. Their mill is for small work. At the time we were there they were making fruit crates, of which they have made over one thousand this season, some of which they have shipped, but the greater part has been used by the local fruit-growers. We had a long talk with “the boys”, who it appears came from the North in 1881, and never intend to live there again, so satisfied are they with the South.
They take great interest in Folkston, and in fact the whole of Georgia. We learn from them that Mr. Newton Roddenberry had brought some new corn to their mill to be ground on July 25. This is the first we have heard of. Their grist mill is a great convenience to the district, for they grind any day, and the farmers can have their grist as fine or as coarse as they like. Mr. C.C. Chase, the father of the “boys”, is a jovial old gentleman, with whom we had a long talk. He informed us he prefers farming, but until his boys get a fair start, he intends to help them.
The new mill of Upton & Dial at Spanish Creek [Uptonville] is a great convenience to them [Chase Bros.], for they can have their lumber sawed to a convenient size for handling, and then dress it themselves. By this means they can get out anything in the way of lumber for building, they having a very good shingle machine on which they have got out a good stock of shingles.
We went across the track at this point to Mr. J.W. Leigh’s store [later was site of Gladys’ Beauty Shop]. This store has not been built long, but has engaged the “Chase boys” to enlarge it for him. This gentleman, besides his store, runs a large farm not far from the St. Marys River, but so energetic is he that he is about to clear a tract in Folkston for a truck farm.
He says that after the experience he has had this season of supplying the Jacksonville market, he knows truck farming will pay. This gentleman has been taking all the peaches he could get in these parts and shipping them to Savannah and Jacksonville. This has proved a good thing for the farmers who last year scarcely could sell any. There are four other gentlemen besides Mr. Leigh engaged in the fruit shipping business: Messrs. John Bachlott, John Boynton, Brown and L.W. Hobbs. We learned from Mr. Brown, the obliging agent of the Southern Express Company, that 932 fruit crates had been shipped up to that date, July 26.
We read every week in the Savannah Weekly News of the many inducements offered to men of energy and sense in our sister state, Florida; but we will venture to say that in no part of Florida are there better chances for this type of men, all things being equal, than in Southeastern Georgia.