Elija "Buck" Pollock Earned Respect of Neighbors

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

The picturesque land had always intrigued Zilphia Pollock. She and her husband, John, had lived on the four acres since arriving in Charlton County in 1885 from North Carolina. They were aboard a boat that landed at Camp Pinckney and they made their way directly to a little settlement called Laytonville, in west Folkston.

By December of 1902, Zilphia had saved up twenty dollars. She bought the four acres, now known as Pollock Circle from M.E. Layton with the money. A proud Zilphia Pollock asked Ben Scott to help her get the deeds recorded. Scott turned the deeds over to the Clerk of the Court, Jesse Vickery, who transcribed the instrument in his sweeping longhand in the deed book.

On May 18, 1905 Zilphia’s daughter, Maud, gave birth to a son, Maud named him Elija Pollock, but he would soon be called “Buck”, a nickname that would stick to him for the rest of his life. Zilphia and John Pollock raised Buck Pollock in their home as one of their own.

Zilphia, at 64, began to think about dying. She sat down and wrote out her will. In it she divided up the four acres among her daughter, Maud Elmore, her two sons, Eddie and Ernest and her grandson, Elija. She directed that her grandson, Elija, should have the family residence. The will was written on Christmas day, 1920 and recorded the following day.

Buck Pollock began to grow up. While still a teenager, but with the build of a prizefighter, he went to work as a “section hand” with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The work was hard, but Buck never complained. He only got stronger.

In 1917, V.A. Hodges came to Folkston from Millwood, Ga. He was the “Roadmaster” and had the top responsibility over a large area of the company’s lines. Hodges’ job allowed him a “crankhand” whose job it was to run the small motor car along the railroad tracks with the Roadmaster in it.

The “crankhand” job was the envy of all of the section laborers. The work was easy and the fringe benefits great. Hodges’ first crankhand was Richard Burgin. But what turned out to be Burgin’s bad luck, turned into Buck Pollock’s good luck.

In the prohibition era Hodges sent his crankhand to Jacksonville on a combination of business and pleasure. Hodges and most of the other men wore starched high collars on their shirts. The collars could not be properly laundered in Folkston, so Hodges periodically sent Burgin to Jacksonville to get his, and a half-dozen other men’s collars laundered.

On one of the return trips, rather than catching the train from Jacksonville, Burgin hitched a ride with another man from Folkston in an automobile. Near the Nassau-Duval county line, two men, kingpins in the moonshine liquor trade, stopped the car and shanghaied Burgin. They shot Burgin, who was a giant of a man, several times. Although Burgin, with two bullets in him, managed to take the guns from the illegal liquor dealers he died a short time later in a Jacksonville hospital from the bullet wounds.

Hodges picked Buck Pollock to replace Burgin as his crankhand and motor car operator. Buck thought he had found the promised land, and soon he became the envy of the workers on the section gang.

Buck Pollock and V.A. Hodges were an imposing pair…Hodges’ towering height (he was affectionately nicknamed “Highpockets”) and Pollock’s muscular build. The two worked together in perfect harmony.

Buck married a girl named Pearl and the couple had six children, three boys and three girls. Their home was the old home place on Pollock Circle, left to him by his grandmother, Zilphia, who died on Christmas Eve, 1932. Her husband John died the following May 18th.

But all did not remain milk and honey. On a cold morning, November 19, 1947, Buck was dressing for work. It was 7 o’clock. The rest of the family was still in bed except the 12 year old son, Clinton. Buck asked Clinton to start the fire. The youngster poured kerosene onto the wood logs in the heater. Havoc followed.

The heater exploded in young Clinton’s face. His clothes blazed furiously. The fire quickly spread all over the room. Buck smothered out the flames on Clinton and called the others to get out of the burning home. No one else was hurt, but young Clinton died in the Coast Line Hospital in Waycross at 6 o’clock that afternoon. The family was heart-broken. Buck rebuilt the home and continued his work with Hodges.

In the late 40s, Buck Pollock and Hodges were returning home from Jacksonville riding the small motor car on the northbound track. The two had just rounded a curve near the St. Marys River when they suddenly found a fast-running steam engine bearing down on them from behind. It had slipped up on them, hidden by the curve.

Buck and Hodges jumped from the motor car only seconds before the steam engine plowed into the motor car, breaking it into a thousand pieces. Hodges rolled off on one side and Pollock on the other. Badly bruised, the two were treated and released from the hospital, thankful to be alive.

On June 19, 1949, Buck’s mother, Maud died. She had married Sam Elmore. Their children were Cora, Eddie and Ernest.

Buck’s wife, Pearl, died in June 1966. Buck, nearing retirement, remarried. On December 20, 1967 he and Estella Bush were married by Clyde Woolard in the county courthouse. The two, with all the children gone, made their home in the rebuilt house on Pollock Circle.

Buck watched as V.A. Hodges retired before him. He began working with a new Roadmaster, R.L. Guy. The company changed his job location to Jacksonville. Buck was forced to move there to protect the job he had held so long.

He continued to call Folkston his home. Buck Pollock, at age 65, in 1970 retired after over a half-century of working with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. He had done his job well, his friends were countless. He told his wife, Estella, that he wanted to “just loaf around” for a year or so and then they would travel.

The travel never came about. In late 1971 Buck began to complain of weakness, something unknown to him. Doctors diagnosed intestinal cancer. His wife drove him regularly to Waycross for treatment for months but the disease continued to spread. At noon, April 23, 1972, Elija Pollock’s life slipped away while he lay in a Waycross hospital.

The name “Pollock” has commanded respect since that day in 1885 when John and Zilphia Pollock got off the boat at Camp Pinckney. Elija “Buck” Pollock had a lot to do with earning that respect, as he wrote his chapter well in the history of Charlton County.

Charlton  County Archives