January 13, 1950

by R. Ward Harrison, Editor

A native of Charlton County, Lewis E. Stokes was born September 10, 1876 in the southern part of the county known as the “Big Bend” section. He is the son of the late Henry J. and Mary Motes Stokes, being the oldest son and next to the oldest member in a family of twelve brothers and sisters. The Stokes family is among the leading pioneer families in that section of the county, having been a prominent and widely-connected Charlton County family for more than a century, having settled here in the early 1830s when this area was a veritable wilderness with savage Indians roaming the forests. Elbert Stokes, grandfather of this sketch, came to the Bend section from South Carolina in the early 30s and soon afterward was married to Miss Courtney Crews, member of another early pioneer family. They raised a large family of sons and daughters and many of their descendants are now among the county’s highly regarded citizens.

Mr. Stokes’ father, the late Henry J. Stokes, served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and after its close he settled the family homestead known as Stokesville, where a country store and a post office were operated for many years. It was there Mr. Stokes grew up to manhood and attended the one-teacher country schools in Georgia and across the St. Marys River in Florida, in which he obtained his education.

Old Stokesville is a picturesque family homestead typical of the old south, being located near the banks of the beautiful St. Marys River, its site being in the midst of giant moss-draped oak trees. There are not many of these old homesteads left in the modern south. The old homeplace, including the property on both sides of the river is still owned by the Stokes family as the undivided property of the heirs of the original owner.

Soon after his eighteenth birthday Mr. Stokes began his business career as the owner and operator of a mercantile business at Glen St. Marys and later at Baldwin, Fla. After several years in the mercantile business he sold out and returned to Stokesville where for many years he carried on a successful turpentine, lumber and logging business in association with his brothers.

Up to a few years ago the Stokes Brothers also were extensively engaged in cattle raising in the Bend section of Charlton and in Nassau County, Fla. This business was closed out two or three years ago. Forty-five years ago next September, Mr. Stokes was married to Miss Molly Braddock of Duval County, Fla. They have eight children, three sons and five daughters, all being grown and a credit to their parents.

In 1928 Mr. and Mrs. Stokes moved their family to Folkston to make their home, coming here largely in order that their children would have the benefit of Folkston’s educational facilities. They have since been among the city’s most highly regarded useful citizens, contributing greatly to its betterment, progress and upbuilding.

Soon after coming here Mr. Stokes purchased the general mercantile business established by the late H.J. Davis, later acquiring the two-story brick building occupied by the store as well as other adjoining property. He recalls that the going was rather hard during the days of the depression but he weathered the storm and has continued to carry on a successful general store business in the same location.

His daughter, Maggie, (Mrs. Ben Rodgers), has been actively associated with him in the business since soon after he took charge of it. This is one of Folkston’s oldest business concerns, the building being among the first brick structures built in this city. The late H.J. Davis established it and operated it for many years prior to selling to Mr. Stokes. In addition to the store building and other business property he owns considerable city real estate and rental property, being one of the county’s successful business men.

He has been a member of Folkston Baptist Church since moving here, having served as a Deacon and Trustee during all this period. He has also served as superintendent of the Sunday School for more than twenty-five years and is one of the church’s most active and valuable members. He has served as a member of the county Board of Education for more than twenty years, being chairman for the greater part of that time. Commenting on the progress made by the county schools system and the advancement of educational facilities he recalls that there were more than fifteen small primary schools in the county other than the Folkston schools when he first became a member of the board. These small schools, most of them with only one teacher had terms of only three or four months of the year and were poorly equipped for efficient school work. This is in striking contrast to the present setup with only two units in the county system, at Folkston and at St. George, both with modern buildings, well-trained teachers and the latest and most modern equipment.

Mr. Stokes might well point to his record as a citizen, businessman and father with pride.

Charlton  County Archives