By Lois Barefoot Mays
In 1901 the planners for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad decided to build a line from Jesup to Folkston, which became known as the Jesup Short Line. A 1,000 foot spur was added there in 1905 to hold cars while they were being loaded with timber. It helped create the village of Newell, about seven miles north of Folkston near U.S. 301. It was just a flag-stop on the railroad but Newell became a busy shipping point for naval stores and timber products.
Willie C. Newell, naval stores operator, established the settlement soon after the railroad spur was built. A sawmill and turpentine still operation provided much-needed jobs for local families until World War II. Mr. Newell lived there only a few years; perhaps he left because he was provoked with the grand jury that indicted him in 1905 for “Unlawfully selling goods and carrying on his general mercantile business and commissary on the Lord’s Day.”
J.C. Littlefield was engaged in the sawmill business, naval stores, piling, poles and cross tie operations at Newell. He also owned the general merchandise store. The big sawdust pile at the mill was an popular spot for the children who enjoyed sitting on a wide board and sliding down the small mountain In 1903, Mr. Newell hired Mrs. Belle Brantley Roddenberry as governess and private tutor for his children. She remained in Charlton County for almost fifty years, teaching in the public school system, and she became one of the most revered teachers who ever taught in this county.
Newell had a post office in the community from 1904-1917 and six postmasters through the years handled the village’s mail. They were Willie C. Newell, Alonzo B. Kesler, Robert A.J. McDuffie, Noah W. Wainwright, Mollie Sikes and Vannie Sikes. The post office was discontinued in 1917, and mail for the citizens of Newell was sent to the Winokur post office.
The community watched with anticipation, as the Newell sawmill processed the lumber needed for their own school. As soon as enough boards were milled, the construction work began. The school was completed in May, 1911, and eighteen students attended that first year. The Newell Literary Society met every two weeks with officers Josephine Allen, Ardell Jones and Zora Wainwright leading the group. Teachers from 1908-1922 were Rozella Crews, Hilda Mattox, John Gibson, Jessie Sikes, Vannie Allen, Clinnie Stokes, Mrs. Gautier, Lottie McEachern, W.M. Wilson, Nellie Readdick, Fannie Maynor, Nomia Sikes, H.G. Langley and Mrs. D.F. Pearce. Rev. Willard of Burnt Fort taught the African-American school for many years. The salary in 1919 was $30.00 per month. (The school was consolidated with Folkston in 1922, and the Board of Education sold the school building.) An unrented house in Newell served as a church building, and pastors and laymen from Folkston taught Sunday School each Sunday afternoon. One of the favorite teachers was Mr. John S. Tyson. Many of the local families were members of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, several miles away.
Like most small communities the social life revolved around the activities of the local school. The annual Christmas Tree (with gifts for all the children) was held at the school. Another annual event was the fund-raiser for library books, which often took the form of Pound Parties, when each guest contributed a penny for every pound they weighed.
In March, 1911, traveling dentist, Dr. S.E. O’Quinn came to Newell, and treated the local patients, filling and pulling teeth. Many times these painful procedures took place on the front porch of the homes, with small children in attendance.
In the summer of 1913, Newell was connected with the rest of the world when the first telephone was installed. The Bailey Branch Telephone Co. completed stringing it lines from the Mills settlement and from Newell to Folkston.
Now, with the new telephone, whenever emergencies occurred, -- such as when the timber cart tongue fell on B.H. Lowther or when Mossie Thomas, a gum dipper for J.C. Littlefield, got bitten by a rattlesnake, or when the front-yard gate fell on Preston Wildes’ two year old child -- a telephone call quickly brought a Folkston doctor.
Each family had its own garden nearby. When J.A. Allen began missing sugar cane from his patch, he slipped around the corner one evening and came upon two pretty young ladies, knives in hand, ready to whack. Mr. Allen just took his gun back to the house.
The Hercules Powder Co. started operations in Charlton County in the spring of 1925, and located their field headquarters at Newell, under the direction of Arthur “Boge” Allen.
The community had its share of tragic events. Everyone was shocked when Lawton Williams killed Ed Hinds in June, 1917. The two were loading a train car, when Hinds attacked Williams with a stick of wood. Williams went for his pistol, and killed him on the spot.
Some of the families who lived in Newell were: Allen, Anderson, Catoe, Clark, Crews, Harris, Henderson, Jones, Kesler, Knight, Littlefield, Lloyd, Sikes, Tucker, Wainwright, Wildes, Williams and Wilson.
Nature has reclaimed much of the land where the noisy sawmill once stood, where the homes of some of the finest people in the county once stood, and the busy school, church and store bustled with activity, in this tightly-knit, and isolated community of Newell.