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St. George: Tiny and Isolated, Just the Way its Residents Like It

THE FLORIDA TIMES-UNION

June 11, 1979

By Mike Dillin, Staff Writer

St. George, Ga. – Settled at the turn of the century, St. George seems hardly affected by modern times.

Resting lazily on the banks of the St. Marys River, this tiny South Georgia community is tucked away below the Okefenokee Swamp, just across the border from Florida.

Though only 12 miles (as the crow flies) from Jacksonville, St. George is far off the well-worn path to Jacksonville, Atlanta, or for that matter, anywhere – except maybe Fargo, Ga.

The people who live there, however, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I wouldn’t trade it for any place to live,” says the town’s postmaster, Rudolph Raulerson. “I’ve lived here 51 years, and I’m looking to finish up here.”

St. George got its beginnings in 1904 says Raulerson. “when a bunch of Yankees colonized the place.

“They came down with some big ideas,” he said, “but when their ideas didn’t pan out, they sold the land to anyone with money.”

There’s still plenty of land in St. George, if not plenty of people. The population, liberally estimated is about 400.

Like most rural areas of the country, St. George lost population during the 1950s and 60s. Unlike most rural areas, though, St. George has begun to get some of those people back.

“Lots of people used to live in these woods,” said lifetime resident L.G. Gainey. “Most of ‘em who left would like to be back now, but they can’t afford it.”

The reason people are coming back to St. George, says more than one resident, is to get out of Jacksonville.

“I’d rather be a big dog in a little town, than a little dog in a big town,” said Mrs. W.R. (Grace) Simpson.

It’s not that people here dislike Jacksonville – more than a few commute the 45-minute trip to and from town – they just don’t want to live there.

In fact, if residents don’t commute to Jacksonville to work, they commute to nearby Callahan, Macclenny or Bryceville.

Other than jobs at a school (grades 1-12), three gas stations, a caf and post office, employment opportunities in St. George are limited. Timber, pulpwood and chicken farming are about all that is left.

It wasn’t always that way said one resident who remembers the days when another industry flourished in St. George – moonshine.

“Fifteen years ago you could get all the homemade whiskey you wanted,” said W.R. Simpson, who runs a gas station with his wife.

“Not anymore, though,” he said. “The ‘revenuers’ took care of that.

“I don’t know where I’d go if I wanted a drink of homemade whiskey today.”

Although somewhat isolated from the world around it, St. George is not isolated from the world’s problems.

Gasoline, when available, sells for as much as 90 cents per gallon. At one point in May, all three gas stations in town were completely out of fuel, which is a particular hardship on residents who commute.

And workers aren’t the only ones who will be commuting. Beginning in 1981, high school students will no longer be allowed to attend classes in St. George.

The Charlton County School Board has ordered the students to be bused to Folkston, which for some is a 70-mile round trip per day.

Townspeople are angered over the proposal, even though the elementary school will remain.

“We’ve always been the county’s stepchild,” Raulerson said.

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