H.C. PAGE RAN FOLKSTON’S RAILROAD DEPOT FOR 39 YEARS
By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian
The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was a three-year old company when Herbert Clarence Page first went to work with them in 1903 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The railroad company’s name became official in 1900 to tie together The Richmond & Petersburg, which was first chartered in 1836 and a dozen or so smaller lines in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. It eventually claimed 5,600 miles of line and owned considerable interest in other railroads, before merging with the Seaboard Airlines Railroad into the Seaboard Coast Line in 1967.
Page, 23 years old at the time, had grown up near Dillon, South Carolina, but had married Frances Poppell, a girl from Screven, Ga. in Wayne County, who wanted to live closer to her home. The opportunity came soon.
On June 1, 1906, the 26 year old depot agent and his 21 year old wife stepped off the train in the tiny town of Folkston which was to be their home for the rest of their lives. Three days later, June 4, 1906, H.C. Page began his first day’s work in the Folkston depot; a job he would hold for thirty-nine years, until his disability retirement on April 12, 1945.
The town was spawned because of the location of the railroad line through it, and it began to drain off people from old Centreville, which had previously been the population center. It was only fitting that the Pages’ first home in Folkston would be in a frame cottage moved from Centreville and located on Courthouse Street. Today the intersecting street where that home was located bears the family name, Page Street. It separates the office of South Georgia Timber Company from Folkston Furniture Company.
The Pages soon won a multitude of friends. He became known for his accommodating nature in the busy railroad depot. Practically everything that came into the town came through his warehouse. Dozens of passenger trains picked up and unloaded passengers daily, with freight trains sandwiched in between. The Folkston train depot was the hot spot in a quiet little town.
On November 8, 1907, a son, Dimon, was born to the popular young couple, and three years later, August 1, 1910, a daughter, Jewell, made her arrival. The joy of the Page household knew no limits. In 1908 he served his first of many terms on the Folkston City Council and in January 1914 he became its mayor. While he worked long days and into the night at the depot, his wife Frances, busied herself being a mother, housewife and school teacher.
Never a traditionalist, H.C. Page liked the unusual. In 1912, when all of the other houses were painted white, he had his painted Canary Yellow and if that wasn’t enough, he had it trimmed in Blue. It became the focal point of the town. Soon other homes were being painted in color.
On July 4, 1913 he endeared himself to the young boys of the town. He gave each of them twenty rounds of “Boy Giant” firecrackers. The weekly newspaper speculated that “all of the boys would vote for him for president at the next general election.” Nearly every weekend he and his wife would take Dimon and Jewell on outings – to Atlantic Beach, to Pablo Beach and to Tybee, and to ball games at Hilliard and Callahan.
Folkston began to grow and H.C. Page found himself working harder and harder to keep up with all the demands upon him at the depot. Passengers and freight increased. He would go to work before daylight and return home late in the evening.
On March 19, 1920 the Page family moved into their brand new home on First Street. The Charlton County Herald, in that week’s issue, described it as “the prettiest home in Folkston.” It too was painted a Canary Yellow. (Today the home on S. First Street is owned by Carolyn and Lloyd Hewitt.) That same edition announced that Dr. J.S. Taylor was permanently locating his dentist office here in the Rodgers Building. It told of the marriage of Winnie Davis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M.G. Davis, to Walter Huling in the home of Judge J.J. Stokes.
Although the Page family was enormously happy and the town had much good news, the bad news dampened any celebration. W.E. Banks had been badly burned about the face and head when a gasoline lamp exploded in his hand. Albert Leon Askew, Jr., the four-year old son of Leon and Mary Askew fell from a wagon loaded with fertilizer and the wheels had run over him. He died several days later.
Herbert C. Page and his family shared the good news and the bad news of the growing little town. They watched and worked and played with the others in the town through the boom and the depression. They anguished through World War One and World War Two and in his job at the depot he helped unload the caskets containing the bodies of local boys who had left, alive and joking from his depot for training bases, and returned in the flag draped caskets as fallen heroes.
The years and the responsibilities wore away at the railroad depot agent’s health and in the waning years of World War Two, illness made it necessary that he take sick leave from the job he had filled so well for 39 years. On April 12, 1945 he officially retired and W.L. Barefoot, Sr. became the Folkston depot agent.
Those that knew him reminisce. They remember the two young newspaper delivery boys at the depot before daylight on a cold winter’s morning to “meet 89” for their morning papers. A smiling H.C. Page insisted they wait inside his office, out of the cold. Once inside the depot, the warm glow from the pot bellied stove warmed their chilled bodies.
A Presbyterian, Mason and Odd Fellow, H. C. Page was one who enjoyed living. He compounded that joy by sharing with others.
The kindly station agent was felled by a heart attack on April 9, 1948 and died in McCoy-Jackson Hospital five days later on April 14, 1948, at 68. He had enjoyed only three years and two days of retirement. His widow, Frances, Daughter Jewell and son Dimon survived.
The graveside funeral services at Folkston’s Pineview Cemetery were held at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, April 16, 1948. His co-workers were active pallbearers, Morris Powell, D.L. Stewart, Austin Gay, Noah Lee Clark, Roy Hodges and Jim Crews.
Honorary pallbearers attested to the prominence he enjoyed in the community: V.A. Hodges, William Mizell, Ward Harrison, E.B. Stapleton, L.E. Mallard, W.L. Barefoot, W.R. Allen, Dr. A. Fleming, Dr. W.R. McCoy, and Dr. J.M. Jackson, W.D. Thompson, R.A. Boyd, John S. Tyson, C.E. Stroup and J.V. Gowen, Sr.
Frances Page lived twelve years after her husband’s death. She died April 26, 1970.
Herbert Clarence Page played a major role in the life of Folkston during its formative years. The history of Folkston and Charlton County reserves a special chapter for this railroader and his family whose outlook on life can be summed up by the epitaph on his grave marker, “Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me - and may there be no moaning of the bar when I put out to sea.”