In the 1890s John and Ben Upton operated a large sawmill and turpentine business near the SF&W railroad. It supported a village called Uptonville which was made up of about twenty families and supported four stores, a church and school. It grew and received a charter from the state for the Town of Uptonville in 1914. The railroad depot was in the center of the town. Most of the activities involved the school or the church, Grace Chapel Baptist. Some of the families involved in the history of this area were Dixon, Sikes, Robinson, Wainwright, Brooks, Conner, Dinkins and Mizell and many of their descendants still live there.
By Lois Barefoot Mays
When Charlton County, Georgia was first organized in 1854 there were only a few family homesteads in the area. They were sprinkled throughout the piney woods along the eastern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. The name “Uptonville” did not appear on maps of the area until around 1881, about the same time that the first railroad lines began their service to Jacksonville.
In 1898, brothers John and Ben Upton operated a large sawmill and turpentine business nearby the railroad. The workers lived in the small company town they called Uptonville. Great loads of cypress and pine logs were delivered to the sawmill at Uptonville by a tram railroad that stretched out into the pristine forests of the swamp. The logs were milled into lumber, which was shipped to points north and south from the Uptonville depot of the Savannah, Florida and Western Railroad (SF&W RR). The village was made up of about twenty families, and it supported four stores, a church and a school.
In its early days the community had an identity crisis, of sorts. The older folks had always known the place as “Spanish Creek.” Then the railroad company wanted to name it “Uptonville” in honor of Ben Upton. The post office, however, did not permit names with suffixes like “-ville” or “Creek,” and insisted on calling the village “Wainwright,” because of the number of citizens by that surname. This confusion in turn began to cause delays in freight delivery, which sometimes mistakenly got put off at Racepond or just dumped beside the tracks. As if that wasn’t enough, the tiny village was also nicknamed “Moonshine, Georgia” by the post office during a brief time around 1885.
The people of this tiny, isolated settlement were deeply involved in their church. In November 1887, 42 children and adults from Uptonville boarded the southbound train and got off at Folkston where they walked a block to the Methodist Church for the annual Sunday School Convention. It was a festive annual event when representatives of the Sunday Schools in each church in the county convened for a day of celebration. Benjamin Upton bestowed the ceremonial banner upon the Uptonville Baptists, and passed out individual badges to the delegates. Mr. Upton himself was also a delegate to the gathering.
In 1909, the post office relented and changed the name of the town to Uptonville. Seven years later, however, postal service to the town was discontinued, and residents had to travel to Folkston to collect their mail. Postmasters of Wainwright, beginning in 1883, were Francis (Frank) D. Wainwright, William L. McDuffie, David D. Dowling, Leona B. Wainwright, Robert A.J. McDuffie and Mrs. Eyre Franks.
Plat Book A Page 23, Uptonville town plat……
November 1887: 42 from Uptonville took train to Folkston and walked one block to Folkston Meth Church for the Sunday School Convention. Mr. Benjamin Upton furnished the banner and individual badges at his own expense. Mr. Upton was one of the delegates.
1888: Uptonville, also known as Wainwright. Sawmill for past 4 years. Frank D. Wainwright is postmaster.
Wainwright: 6-15-1889: John Upton, living one mile from town received telegram announcing death of his daughter Mrs. M.B. Gilbert of Boston, Ga. The aged parents took the 9 pm train to be present at the burial.
June 1889: There is a gentleman living in this county, Mr. James Dinkins, whose heart is said to be on his right side and has been so pronounced by a competent doctor. There is no sound or movement to be detected in the left breast, but upon placing the ear to the right breast, movement is felt and the heart gives out a distinct sound.
June 1889: There was a terrible fire in the stove flue at Newton Mizell’s plantation. The kitchen, sugar house and smoke house were destroyed. Those days, most kitchens were detached from the main dwellings for a very practical purpose -- fire control. Since Mr. Mizell’s home was apart from the kitchen, it survived the fire.
Dec. 1889: The community couldn’t agree on name. Post office dept. calls it Wainwright for it didn’t admit any name with ville or creek attached. The railroad didn’t like Wainwright and called it Uptonville in honor of B. Upton.. The old people call it Spanish CreekIt caused confusion and delay with freight which sometimes got put off at Racepond. The station contained a good freight house, four stores, a sawmill and about twenty families
There was some disagreement between the railroad and a former agent so the freight house for some time was abandoned and the freight dumped off near the tracks.
In 1896 a terrible storm did awful damage to Charlton County and the depot and several houses were destroyed in Uptonville.
July 1901: letter to Col. Olliff concerning non payment of bill of Wholesale grocer, fruits and produce, butter and cheese, hay, grain against S.L. Campbell of Uptonville, amounting to 16.49.
4-2-08: E.J. Stafford with the brick yard near Uptonville has severe rising just below the kneecap.
1-21-09 Uptonville News: Mr. Mills of Waycross purchased the turpentine plant of J.J. Green near Uptonville.
7-29-1909: D.F. Anderson of U. is spending this week in Baltimore buying his fall stock of merchandise.
In 1908-1909, Uptonville businesses included D.F. Anderson’s General Merchandise Store and a brickyard operated by E.J. Stafford.
In 1911, a two-room school house was built for the sum of $705.24. The building became a center for community gatherings such as church and church functions, special entertainments and school events. The kitchen was built in a separate building, for fire safety. Each homeroom had a cloak room for the coats, sweaters and lunches that the children brought from home. Students in grades one through three studied in one room, and grades four through seven in the other. Near the turn of the century, the school employed only one teacher at a time, and among those were Miss Rena Smith, Miss Marie Jennings, Perry A. Shuman and W.M. Wilson. Later, Mrs. Clora Lee Conner Roddenberry and C.W. Waughtel taught there together. Mrs. Susanne Staton Mallard owns this historic building now.
2-16-1911: N. Roddenberry Trustee, put up for sale the F,W, Bap Church of Uptonville, and the acre it was on
6-20-12: W.N. Murray of Uptonville shipping cantaloupes this week.
6-20-1912: James Brooks, Stewart Conner, R.B. Thomas were farmers having good crops at this time.
1-22-14: C.W. Waughtel resurveyed village, cut it up in lots, to have 40 acre farms..
4-9-14: Ad Something new at U an up to date fance grocery, hardware, dry goods and feed store. L.S. Waughtel.
In 1914, the South Georgia Free Will Baptist Association discontinued the Uptonville Baptist Church, located in the center of the village. Mr. N. Roddenberry, Association trustee deeded the church and one acre of land to C.W. Waughtel. Also in 1914, just two months after the first steamer passed through the brand-new Panama Canal, Uptonville held an election. On October 2, 1914, thirteen men of the community voted at the old Anderson Store building, and they unanimously decided to seek a charter for their tiny town.
The men voting were: Mann Bird, G.D. Daniels, Robert Daniels, Narum Dixon, A.J. Sikes, Dan Robinson, J.P. Franks, H.R. Taylor, J. Hurst, G.B.Wainwright, J.W. Wainwright, Jr., C.W. Waughtel and L.S. Waughtel. P.G. Brooks was Justice of the Peace at that time.
The charter for Uptonville became official on October 20, 1914. Soon afterwards another election was held, and the first officials were elected: C.W. Waughtel was elected Mayor and A.J. Sikes, Recorder.
The heart of Uptonville remained the train depot. Around this spot the planners drew a circle, with a perimeter that reached out three-fourths of a mile. The land was divided into 29 lots for homes and businesses. Streets with names like Orange, Oak, Bay and Pine, etc. led toward Homeland, Waycross and Newell.
The old map shows where some of the family homes were located: Anderson, Franks, Thomas, Taylor and Sikes. The railroad section foreman’s house was located adjacent to the tracks.
1-15-1915 U. held its annual election, C.W. Waughtel, Mayor; A.J. Sikes, Recorder, L.S. Waughtel, Henry Taylor, George Daniels, Robert Daniels, C.B. Wainwright, councilmen
3-14-1919: County Commissioners appointed Dan Martin as Uptonville District Road Overseer.
10-7-1927: Young people organize as Young Folks Community Club, elect officers
People of this district have been granted privilege of naming new commissioner of that district to represent them on Board of County Comm. Met at school house and named William Crews. Listed all the men there…
J.W. WAINWRIGHT, JR.
Constitute a majority of male inhabitants. Uptonville depot as center of circle, then a line ¾ mile from depot.
Had election for or against incorporation and eleven votes were cast for election and no votes against election.
Voted at old Anderson Store Building on 10-3-14. The following voted:
Nirum Dixon NARUM DIXON
J.W. Wainwright, Jr.
Notice of election to be held was posted at 3 places: the post office, the voting place, and store of L.S. Waughtel, three of the most public places in the territory.
P.G. Brooks was Justice of Peace and witness to incorporation papers.
TOWN OF UPTONVILLE was issued a certificate of incorporation
A noteworthy thread through the history of Uptonville has been the leadership that emerged from the young people of the town. In 1927 the youth organized into the Young Folks Community Club, an active group that met weekly to work on community projects. Leaders in the group were Arline Wright, Gertie Conner, Kline Gowen and Annie Gowen.
In 1939, church services were being held in the school building. The youth of Uptonville organized themselves and proceeded to establish another church, where they began a small Sunday School group who those who loved to sing and who had a vision. They met weekly and sponsored entertainments to raise funds for building materials and a piano. With the help of Rev. Hughie Dixon, they planned and built their new church, Grace Chapel, and it has been a strong force in the community for the past sixty years.
Uptonville is known nowadays as a larger community that encompasses large farms with modern homes, and timber company interests. It is hard to find the exact spot where the homes and stores of the little village once stood; much of the area is planted in neat rows of pines. But there are still plenty of Wainwrights, Dinkins, Sikes, Brooks and Mizells living in that area, who still enjoy fishing in Spanish Creek, hunting in the same woods and singing the same old songs as their ancestors before them.
1883: Frances D. Wainwright
1899: William L. McDuffie
1906: David D. Dowling
1906: Leona B. Wainwright
1907: Robert A.J. McDuffie
1907: Mrs. Eyre Franks
1909: CHANGED TO UPTONVILLE
1909: Eyre Frankson
Discontinued October 31, 1916, mail sent to Folkston.