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Georgia Natural Wonder #172 - Kolomoki Mounds - Early County
December 06, 2020 12:33AM

Georgia Natural Wonder #172 - Kolomoki Mounds - Early County

Alright, we have had some fun coming south of the North Georgia Mountains to middle Georgia for the Pine Mountain Ridge. Today we move even further South to a Man Made Natural Wonder. We explored the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds with GNW #66 (Part 1). We explored the Etowah Indian Mounds with GNW #158. The Kolomoki Indian Mounds is one of the largest and earliest Woodland period earthwork mound complexes in the Southeastern United States and is the largest in Georgia. Kolomoki was perhaps one of the most populous settlements north of Mexico. The mound complex is located in southwest Georgia, in present-day Early County near the Chattahoochee River. It lies on a tributary of the Chattahoochee River near the town of Blakely.



The mounds were designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Seven of the eight mounds are protected as part of Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park.



Kolomoki Mounds State Park is an important archaeological site as well as a scenic recreational area. Kolomoki, covering some three hundred acres, is one of the larger preserved mound sites in the USA.



In the early millennium of the Common Era, Kolomoki, with its surrounding villages, Native American burial mounds, and ceremonial plaza, was a center of population and activity in North America. The eight visible mounds of earth in the park were built between 250-950 AD by peoples of the Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. These mounds include Georgia's oldest great temple mound, built on a flat platform top; two burial mounds, and four smaller ceremonial mounds.



As with other mound complexes, the people sited and built the earthworks according to a complex cosmology. Researchers have noted that several mounds are aligned according to astronomical events. For example, mounds A, D, and E, which form the central axis of the site, align with the sun at the spring equinox. Mounds F and D form an alignment with the sun at the summer solstice.



Soils at the Park are mostly dark red sandy loams or loamy sands of the Americus, Greenville, and Red Bay series. Some pale brown sands of the Troup series occur on the western shores of Kolomoki Lake, and at the northern end of the lake is brown or dark gray alluvial loam of the Herod-Muckalee soil association.

Archaeological features



Temple Mound

The Temple Mound (Mound A) is 56 feet high and measures 325 by 200 feet at the base. Limited archaeological excavations on the flat summit of Mound A failed to divulge its function. Research indicates that it would have taken over two million basket loads carried by individual workers, each holding one cubic foot of earth, to build this mound. The southern half of the mound is three feet higher and was probably the temple platform. From the top of the steps, most of the Kolomoki Archaeological Area can be viewed. Approximately 1,500 - 2,000 residents lived in a village of thatched houses that were built around the large plaza in the center of the complex. It was a place for public ceremonial activities and rituals, including games.


A view of the temple mound at Kolomoki Mounds State Park.


A view of the plaza from atop the temple mound at Kolomoki Mounds State Park.

Mounds B and C, which flank Mound A to the south and north, respectively, consist of small dome-shaped constructions.Excavations in these mounds revealed the remnants of large wooden posts that were probably used in religious ceremonies by the Swift Creek and Weeden Island Indians.



Mounds D and E stand opposite Mound A, forming a line to the west. These mounds served as burial repositories. Each of the two mounds included large caches of ceramic vessels, some elaborately decorated in the forms of animals and people. The ceramic caches were deposited on the eastern sides of the mounds, presumably during mortuary rites.

Mound D

Mound D is one of the eight visible mounds at the Kolomoki site. It is a conical mound that is 20 feet high from the ground. It is centrally located at Kolomoki. Archeologists discovered the remains of 77 burials and ceremonial pottery here. The effigy pottery discovered was shaped in various animal and bird shapes, such as deer, quail and owls.



Mound D was constructed in several stages, each time increasing in size. It began as a square-platform mound that was about 6 feet tall. This original platform mound was built from yellow clay. Sixty pottery vessels were placed on the east wall including the above effigy pottery.



After many subsequent burials and the addition of more yellow clay in layers, the mound was shaped as a larger circular mound about 10 feet tall. These burials took place on the eastern side of the mound, and the skulls face eastward, the direction of the rising sun, apparently for religious reasons. Burial objects made from iron and copper and pearl beads were included as ceremonial objects with the burials. Finally, the entire mound was covered with red clay.



Finally, Mounds G, F, and H are small, flat-topped mounds. Excavations in the latter two indicated that they served as platforms, probably for ceremonial occasions. Mound G is privately owned and is not a part of the state park.


Ceremonial Platform (Mound F)

Museum

The park's museum was built to incorporate part of an excavated mound; it provides an authentic setting for viewing artifacts. The museum features a film about how this mound was built and excavated.


Ceramic sculptures, many in the forms of animals, were found during excavations of the Kolomoki Mounds in Early County.

The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., conducted excavations at Kolomoki between 1894 and 1897. Since then the only large-scale, modern excavations were led by archaeologist William Sears from 1948 to 1953. Sears believed that the site dated to the Mississippian Period (A.D. 800-1600), when such large, flat-topped structures as Mound A were built throughout the Southeast. However, archaeologists now recognize that the main occupation of Kolomoki dates to the Woodland Period (1000 B.C.-A.D. 900).


Archaeologists now recognize that the main occupation of the Kolomoki Mounds site dates to the Woodland Period (1000 B.C.-A.D. 900)

Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park is open year-round. A small museum shows the interior of Mound E as it was left after excavation, and exhibits provide background information on the site.


Inside of museum that was built around the burial mound archeological excavation.

In March 1974, a thief entered the museum at the park and stole more than 129 ancient pots and effigies, numerous arrowheads, and other treasures. Every artifact on display was stolen. Several years later, many of the pieces were recovered by police and dealers in Miami and St. Augustine, Florida. But, with more than 70 relics still missing, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has sought public help in recovering these artifacts. Archeologists believe the pots are somewhere in Georgia or Florida, perhaps held by dealers or private collectors.


Artifacts on display at Kolomoki museum

Park Manager Matt Bruner said,

These pieces are an important part of North American history and should be properly protected for future generations to study. They have significant meaning to the Native American people because many were used during burial ceremonies, plus they represent some of the finest craftsmanship of the Kolomoki culture.

He emphasized that the state is more interested in recovering the pots than prosecuting the people who have them.

Georgia State Park

From the secrets of the Woodland Period mound builders, to the industry of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Kolomoki Mounds State Park lures the modern visitor to discover the natural resources within the rural scenery and historic fabric of Southwest Georgia.



This historically significant park is the oldest and largest Woodland Indian site in the southeastern United States, occupied by Indians from 350 to 750 A.D. Georgia’s oldest great temple mound, standing 57-feet high, dominates two smaller burial mounds and several ceremonial mounds. The park’s museum is built around an excavated mound, providing an unusual setting for learning who these people were and how they lived. Inside, visitors will find numerous artifacts and a film.



Kolomoki Mounds is also known for its wide range of outdoor activities. Two lakes provide fishing and boating, and a campground is nestled under hardwoods and pines. Hikers can choose from three scenic trails. The Spruce Pine Trail offers views of lakes Yahola and Kolomoki.



The Trillium Trail and White Oak Trail meander through the forest. Children will enjoy the playground, pedal boats and miniature golf.



Lost Worlds

Kolomoki Mounds are the next great accomplishment of Georgia’s Native Americans. The Kolomoki Mounds site is believed to have been the most populous Native American community north of Mexico during its time period. The site consists of nine earthen mounds built between the years A.D. 350 and 750. The largest of Kolomoki’s nine mounds is Mound A and it rises to a height of 57 feet. Its base is larger than a football field thus making it the Indian mound with the largest land base in the state of Georgia. The mound takes the form of a truncated or flat-topped pyramid. Although today the mound is covered with grass and a few trees, it originally would have been swept clear of any vegetation and covered with different colored clays. The final capping layer was made from red clay. Years before this red capping layer was added the mound had been completely covered with white clay. These clay capping layers are so thick and hard that early archaeologists joked it would take an earthquake and dynamite to ever break through them.



The southern half of the summit of Mound A is elevated three feet higher than the northern half. No evidence of structures has been found on the summit of the mound thus it may have served solely as a ceremonial platform or stage for public rituals. It also could have served as a platform for astronomical observations since pottery from this time period suggests such observations were being made and accurate calendars were being produced.



It is also not certain how people reached the summit of the mound since no ramp led to the top. It is possible that steps were incorporated into the plaza-side of the mound’s steep face but this has not been investigated.



In the center of the Kolomoki site is a conical mound rising to a height of 20 feet at its apex. Known as Mound D, this mound contained 77 burials and a cache of exquisite ceremonial pottery. In fact, it is the unique nature of these mortuary pottery vessels that the Kolomoki site has become noted. This cache consisted of effigy pottery in the shapes of various animals including deer, quail and owls.



The burial mound itself was constructed over a long period of time and consists of several stages. The first stage was a rectangular platform mound about six feet high created from yellow clay. A cache of 60 pottery vessels, including the aforementioned effigy pottery, was placed against the eastern side of this mound. Many burials later, the mound evolved into a circular platform mound about 10 feet high, still covered in yellow clay. After the final burial activity, the mound was completely covered with red clay and took its present form. These final burials were all placed in the east side of the mound with the skulls facing eastward. Burial objects made from copper and iron as well as pearl beads were included with these burials.



Between the burial mound and Mound A lies a central plaza of red clay. The people of the village most likely lived in houses surrounding this plaza. Their houses were of wattle-and-daub construction with thatched roofs made from local grasses.



At the far western end of the site is located a circular, dome shaped burial mound known as Mound E. The mound is about 11 feet high and constructed from soil and rocks with a final capping layer of red clay and rocks. Within it was found the graves of several people along with their grave goods. Some of these grave goods included a copper-covered wooden ornament and a mass of fifty-four complete pottery vessels. One individual was interred with a mass of shell beads and copper ear ornaments with pearls at their centers.


This burial mound on the western side of the Kolomoki Mounds complex was filled with burials and Swift Creek pottery.

Another mound, Mound B, located at the southeastern end of the central plaza near Mound A, has perplexed archaeologists since its discovery. It seems to have been created solely to hold up very large posts. Some have suggested that these posts were the goal posts of an Indian ball game while others suggested they were possibly totem poles. A more likely explanation, though, comes from written observations during the historic era of Hitchiti Indian practices in this same region. Hitchiti (or lower Creek) towns were divided into “White (peace) Towns” and “Red (war) Towns.” At every public assembly, each town would erect either a white “Peace Post” or red “War Post” at the southeast corner of their central plaza to indicate their present political orientation. Thus, it is likely that Kolomoki’s “mysterious” mound reflects an earlier Woodland version of this same ritual or is a later addition by the Lamar culture.



Astronomical alignments have been noted for several mounds at the Kolomoki site. Mounds A, D, and E which form the central axis of the site form an alignment with the sun at the spring equinox. Mounds F and D form an alignment with the sun at the summer solstice. Other mounds were thought to have been aligned in order to predict the arrival of these solar events.



Pottery manufactured during this time period seems to reflect a detailed knowledge of astronomical events.

Who Built Kolomoki?

The primary evidence comes from the two types of pottery that have been found at the site: Swift Creek pottery and Weeden Island pottery. The Swift Creek culture is the older and more wide-spread of the two and it is believed that the Weeden Island culture evolved directly from the Swift Creek. A map of the Swift Creek culture area shows that it was once spread across most of the state of Georgia. The distribution of this culture and its pottery seems to match the distribution of the Hitchiti Native American language family thus it is likely that Hitchiti was the language of the Swift Creek Culture.



One of the few modern-day speakers of this language is the Miccosukee Indian Tribe in south Florida. They were once part of a larger tribe known as the Chiaha who lived in Georgia and Tennessee. There is mounting evidence that the Chiaha were Maya immigrants from Mexico. According to one Hitchiti migration legend they arrived by boat in the Lake Okeechobee area of Florida before migrating north into Georgia. Archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of corn agriculture in North America in the area around Lake Okeechobee dating to at least 200 AD, the same time period that construction began at Kolomoki. Corn originated in Mexico thus its arrival in Florida suggests Mexican natives brought it there by boat.



Additionally, linguistic connections between Hitchiti and Mayan also exist. For instance, Chiaha is a Mayan word that means “edge water” or “water’s edge.” This is precisely where most Swift Creek villages were constructed and thus a fitting name for this tribe. The Hitchiti word for “house” is chiki, the same as it is for the Totonacs in Mexico.



In both Mayan and Hitchiti chi means “mouth.” These are just a few examples of the linguistic connections.

Where did the people of Kolomoki go?

An intriguing clue lies in the architecture of a house-type first identificed at Kolomoki. Known as a keyhole house, the structure had a rectangular floor recessed three feet below the surface of the ground. Steps led down into the house through a tunnel-like entrance. Coincidentally, about fifty years after Kolomoki was abandoned this same unique house-type appeared in Arkansas at a site known today as Toltec Mounds. Approximately 100 years later this house-type appeared at the very important archaeological site known as Cahokia near modern-day St. Louis, Missouri. Did the elite families of Kolomoki migrate into Arkansas and Missouri after they left southwest Georgia?



Sometime around A.D. 675 the volcano Popocatepetl in central Mexico had one of its largest eruptions ever. The great Mexican city of Teotihuacan also went into decline around the same time. Teotihuacan was the most populous city in the New World and the sixth most populous in the entire world but by A.D. 750 both Teotihuacan and Kolomoki would be abandoned and their inhabitants would migrate to other areas. The great Teotihuacan would be burned by its own rioting inhabitants. They would also smash statues of their rain god perhaps for failing to deliver the much needed rain. Around the world a similar pattern occurred: established empires crumbled and new powers emerged.



It is also interesting to note that the large mound at Kolomoki, Mound A, was at one point covered in white clay and then eventually capped with a final red clay layer. Had Kolomoki changed from a “white” peace town into a “red” war town before its decline?

Early County

Early County is a county located on the southwest border of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,008. The county seat is Blakely, where the Early County Courthouse is located. Created on December 15, 1818, it was named for Peter Early, 28th Governor of Georgia. Early was elected as a Representative from Georgia to the 8th United States Congress to serve the remainder of the term left vacant by the resignation of John Milledge, who had been elected as Governor of Georgia. Early was re-elected to the 9th Congress.



After his congressional service, Early was elected by the Georgia General Assembly as judge of the Superior Court, Ocmulgee Circuit, serving in that court from 1807 until 1813. The respect and popularity he gained from his service on the bench propelled him to be elected the 28th Governor of Georgia in 1813.



He served one term, through 1815, during which he was instrumental in committing funds on several occasions from the state treasury to help raise and supply additional troops from Georgia to the American military forces during the latter half of the War of 1812.



Fort Early near Cordele was named after him. An earthworks fort established in 1814 during the War of 1812 and the Creek Indian War by General David Blackshear. The fort was stockaded in December 1817 by a large detachment under Major Thomas Woodward. The post became an important supply depot and troop staging area during the First Seminole War.



General Andrew Jackson used Fort Early as a jumping off point for his expedition against the Seminole and Creek Indians in 1818. General Jackson arrived on 26 Feb 1918 with 900 Georgians, two companies of Tennessee troops and a large detachment of Indians. From Fort Early, General Jackson moved on to Fort Scott in southern Georgia and then into Florida to begin his campaign. Fort Early was apparently abandoned after the summer of 1818. We covered Fort Scott in GNW#152 (Part 2).



Early County Marker at courthouse.



The county is bordered on the west by the Chattahoochee River, forming the border with Alabama.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 516 square miles, of which 513 square miles is land and 3.8 square miles is water.



The northeastern and eastern portions of Early County, east of Blakely, and extending south to a line east of Jakin, are located in the Spring Creek sub-basin of the ACF River Basin (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin). The western portion of the county is located in the Lower Chattahoochee River sub-basin of the same ACF River Basin.

History

Prehistoric and nineteenth-century history has been preserved in some of Early County's attractions. It is the site of the Kolomoki Mounds, a park preserving major earthworks built by indigenous peoples of the Woodland culture more than 1700 years ago. This is one of the largest mound complexes in the United States and the largest in Georgia; it includes burial and ceremonial mounds. The siting of the mounds expresses the ancient people's cosmology, as mounds are aligned with the sun at the spring equinox and summer solstice.



The county area was long territory of the historic Creek Indian peoples of the Southeast, particularly along the Chattahoochee River. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, European-American settlers began to encroach on this territory, pushing the Muscogee out during Indian Removal in the 1830s. The Muscogee were forced to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.



This area was developed by European-American settlers and their African-American enslaved workers for cotton plantations. Agriculture was critical to the economy into the 20th century.



Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge

The Cohelee Creek Bridge in the county is the southernmost covered bridge still standing in the United States.



The 96-foot long Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge was built in 1891 at the old McDonald Ford on Coheelee Creek. It has two 54 feet spans and rests upon three abutments.



Built by John William Baughman, the bridge cost only $490.41, but still stands today as one of the most beautiful and unique landmarks in the Deep South. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.



Coheelee Creek rushes over a small waterfall just after it passes beneath the covered bridge. Such scenes are rare in Southwest Georgia,
where waterfalls are few and far between.



An expensive and far-sighted restoration project was launched to stabilize and repair the bridge in 1984.



Multiple Historic Markers for this bridge. This should be a Co-Natural Wonder along with the Indian Mounds for Early County.


It is located 2 miles north of Hilton on Old River Rd.

Confederate Flagpole

One of the last wooden flagpoles from the American Civil War era is located at the historic courthouse in downtown Blakely.





Ugly Side of Early County

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, in the period from 1877 to 1950, Early County had 24 documented lynchings of African Americans, the second-highest total in the state after the more densely populated Fulton County. Most were committed around the turn of the 20th century, in the period of Jim Crow conditions and suppression of black voting. This was still a largely agricultural area, and some disputes arose from confrontations between black sharecroppers or tenant farmers and white landowners, particularly at times to settle accounts.

Matt Butts

On May 25, 1881, an altercation occurred on the plantation of Mr. J.R.H Sanders which ultimately resulted in the death of 21-year-old Matt Butts. Butts was told by Major Bathea to go to the oat field and bring up oats for the stock, but Butts refused. When told again he must go to the fields, Butts replied: “I'll be damned if I go”. Bathea then hit him in the head with a stick and Butts drew a knife and stabbed Bathea causing instant death. He then said “If you follow me I will kill you” before trying to make an escape. A mob of Bathea’s friend found out where he would be held in Blakely jail, and voyaged to kill Butts. The party in charge of transporting Butts was met and overpowered by a mob of 75-100 men and he was hung by the toes and riddled with bullets.



Butts was described as a heavy built male, who was “said to be the perfect demon”. They also discussed allegations of Butts assaulting a woman just days prior to this incident. Throughout the history of American literature and journalism, black men that rebelled against the social hierarchy were demonized and portrayed as evil. Whereas, the white victim was portrayed as a peaceable and easy going man, who was a father and husband undeserving of such a fate even though it was clear that Bathea was the initial assaulter. This article is an example of how black men were portrayed in the press as cannibalistic and unruly, while whites were portrayed as victims of the actions and behavior of “uncivilized” black people.



Arthur Thompson was killed by a white mob in the Summer of 1893 after being accused of murder. The details of this lynching remain unknown, however it is likely that his lynching was the result of false accusations; a common trait among those who were murdered during this era.

Sidney Grist was hanged with the only cited cause being “political activity” without further explanation. He was lynched on the last day of the year 1896.

Safford Georgia - The Rape of Mrs. Ogletree

Among these cases were five African-American men lynched by whites in less than a month in the summer of 1899: three on July 23, one on July 25 (all reportedly for rape and robbery), and one on August 3 for attempted rape. Black men were frequently identified as suspects in such cases and lynched before any trial took place; further investigations have sometimes revealed consensual sex or other persons having committed the crime. On July 23, 1899, 4 men were killed based upon accusations of robbery and murder. These men were lynched in Safford, Georgia. Louis Sammin, a fellow named Henderson, and the unnamed third individual committed escaped alongside 5 other black males in a chain gang from Augusta, Ga. They assaulted Mr. and Mrs. Ogletree. Sammin was the first to be captured from the gang and he confessed to the crimes. He was then hung from a tree. After being hung he was riddled with bullets.



Hunting parties took to the streets of Saffold, Georgia on July 23, 1899, to find the men accused of committing a “dastardly crime” against Mr. and Mrs. Ogletree. When Louis Sammin asked for safe harbor, he was instead handed over to those hunting him and made to confess. In his confession, Sammin shared that others who had also escaped his chain gang from Albany were nearby. He also shared the names of other members of his escaped chain gang including Charles Mack. A report from The Bamberg Herald of South Carolina says that two others were killed the same night as Sammin, although they remain unnamed, well one fellow was named Henderson. Sammin was hanged and shot dead in Early County. The other two were then tracked down and the mob attempted to arrest them, the two drew their pistols and denied the arrest. They were then shot and then scalped. Just two days after Louis Sammin was lynched for supposedly robbing Mr. Ogletree and raping his wife Lillie, Charles Mack was turned in by the white man named Cordell who had been hiding Mack. Cordell was threatened that if he did not hand over Charles Mack, his life would be taken. Mack had been implicated by Mr. Ogletree as one of the assailants and was likely killed by gunfire, although other accounts say he may have also been tortured and castrated before his death. “Everybody, white and black, fully justify the action of the men who lynched the villains who assaulted Mrs. Ogletree, and all men of their class will be similarly treated when they lay hands on white women”

Peter Morris

Peter Morris was lynched on January 28, 1915. Peter Morris had allegedly committed a robbery and brutal murder of Early County’s beloved grocery store owner Elbert Lewis. The crime was committed about 1 o'clock that Thursday afternoon and Morris was lynched 8 o’ clock that evening. Peter Morris was a farmer in Early County in the early 1900s, and was killed after being accused of murder, despite no direct evidence being found to support his accusation. His murder, along with many unjustified cases during this era, was never thoroughly investigated and led many in the black community to live in fear despite their innocence.


A mass lynching took place in the county on December 30, 1915, when seven black men were lynched, allegedly as suspects in a murder.

When a white overseer, Henry J. Villipigue, was shot and killed, pandemonium swept through Blakely, Georgia. The Goolsby boys, Mike and Ulysses, were killed after facing trial for their overseers' death. Their father, Grandison, did not make it past the night he was accused of killing Villipigue. Hosh Jewell, Early Hightower, and James Burton were shot and killed in the rampage that erupted throughout Blakely, despite their innocence and non-involvement in the Villipigue murder. A newspaper article that was written for New York’s “Issues and Events” states that the men were slaughtered after “an all-day hunt,” referring to the accused as animals rather than humans. Originally, Charles Holmes was also reported as falling victim to gunfire, but it was later discovered that this was incorrect reporting.



The case of the Goolsby’s is complicated to trace in historical records. The comparison of several articles in various newspapers, as well as the juxtaposition of those articles with excerpts from published history books, is necessary to gain a more extensive understanding of what exactly happened with Grandison Goolsby and his two sons, Mike and Ulysses. There is a discrepancy in the historical reporting of what transpired in the Goolsby case; looking for consistency is key. What can be inferred from multiple sources is that a white plantation overseer by the name of Henry Villipigue (in various records, he is referred to as Villipigus, Villipique, or Villepigue) was murdered, having been allegedly shot by either Mike or Ulysses Goolsby for whipping one of their little brothers in December of 1915. Almost immediately after Villipigue’s death, Grandison, the father, was shot and killed alongside four other African Americans (the number lynched varies in different sources, ranging from 5-7 victims; 4 victims are certain to have been lynched in this one instance). There was no effort put forth by legal officials to indict those who lynched the Goolsby and other African Americans. After the lynching of their father, Mike and Ulysses escaped to either Alabama or Florida. As carloads of armed, white men circled the Fulton County area looking for them, they no doubt feared for their lives; these cars even went so far as to begin the journey to Alabama and Florida in order to find them. The brothers, Mike and Ulysses, were eventually arrested and indicted on the charge of the murder of Henry Villipigue in April of 1916. In October, both brothers were convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. The jury in Ulysses’s case took half an hour to convict him. Furthermore, the request for a change of venue for the Goolsby brothers’ cases was denied by the presiding Judge Worrill.

William (Wilbur) Little

Following World War I, the county became nationally recognized for its racism with the murder of William Little, an American Soldier who had recently returned from serving in the Great War in 1919. Private William Little was born Wibert Little to Benjamin in Lucy Little in Early County, GA. Little was inducted into the military branch of the Army on October 16th, 1918. In the year of 1919 Private William Little, an American soldier had returned from Camp Wheeler in Macon after surviving the horrors of World War 1 while serving the country. Upon his return to Early County, white people in the area were allegedly offended by Little’s wearing of his uniform. They asked him to remove his uniform but he denied their request, and the other people in the town stood up for him. In weeks following he was sent letters advising him to either stop or leave town, but he ignored the notes as he had no other clothes to wear. His body was later found beaten to death on the outskirts of the town on what was Little’s 22nd birthday. This event gained Early County the title of “Meanest Little Town in America” by some state newspapers. This case was unusual in the respects that Little was allegedly misidentified by a Chicago newspaper as the soldier found on the outskirts of Blakely that day.



According to the Early County Newspaper, the body that was found that day was covered in the initials of C.L.H on his watch, leggings, and undershirt. Those initials belonged to an Early County native Clifford Hughes. Clifford Hughes was born on August 20, 1894, in Enterprise Alabama. On March 25, 1919, Two white escaped fugitives approached Hughes on their escape route to Alabama. They asked Hughes for a ride to inquire about a job, and Hughes kindly agreed. While driving one of the fugitives forcibly offered to drive, and then purposely choked down the vehicle near the community of Blakely. Hughes got out to aid to the vehicle and they shot him in the back of the head. He was left to die where he was later found and the controversy of identification began.

This case that displays the poor documentation and regard for African American life. The death of Hughes was used as a headline story nationally that upset the nation as he was identified as a mistreated soldier for simply wearing his uniform, while in Georgia the story was titled “A Mystery Murder” as they did not know who it was. It was when Hughes brother E.I. Baker traveled to identify the body and take it back to Alabama that his true identity had been discovered. This misinformation was used as a tool to fuel the narrative fire of racial tensions in the South.

Eli Cooper

Eli Cooper, who was accused of not being respectful to whites in his manner of speaking, was shot and killed by a mob of roughly 20 white men. He was brought several miles from his home to an African American church in Early County and, after being murdered, the mob set fire to the church and proceeded to throw his body into it.



The burning of African American churches which inevitably provided a sense of community to this oppressed population demonstrates whites’ resistance to the strengthening of African American communities. Cooper’s alleged crime and his punishment for it alone show how far whites would go in order to ensure the racial hierarchy remained unchanged.

Robert Sapp

Robert Sapp was killed on May 6, 1941, near Blakely, Georgia. Sapp was accused of stealing from the safe of the mechanic company he worked for as well as stealing on other occasions not listed. On the evening of May 6th, Sapp was taken by three of his white co-workers a little outside of Blakely, Georgia and was beaten with a club and piece of heavy machinery. The initial cause of death was recorded as pneumonia, but upon further investigation, it was classified and reported as a Lynching by The Association of Southern Women for Prevention of Lynching.



In 1960 an African-American veteran from New Jersey who was traveling through the county was convicted of rape and sentenced to death 3 days after his arrest in a trial that featured no defense counsel and no jury. The story was chronicled in the movie Fair Game. A month after the article appeared in the Chicago Defender the NAACP sent Monroe N. Work to Blakely to investigate the incident. On June 7, 1919, Work sent a telegram to NAACP officer J.R. Shillady stating "Have investigated report. Blakely, Georgia, lynching does not appear to have occurred." Work concluded his investigation by recommending that allegations of a lynching be dropped. However, further review by the organization found that it had in fact occurred.

Cities of Early County

Arlington (shared with Calhoun County)

Arlington was founded in 1873, and was chartered in 1881. Arlington served as county seat from 1923 to 1929. The community was named after the Arlington House, the Virginia home of General Robert E. Lee.


The Arlington United Methodist Church, this congregation originated as the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was chartered around the time of Arlington’s founding, (1873). Designed in the Romanesque Revival (Akron Plan) style by T. Firth Lockwood, Sr., it is the oldest church in Arlington and remains a center of community life.


Arlington School torn down in 2017.

Damascus

An early variant name was Kestler. An act of Georgia General Assembly officially changed the name to Damascus in 1914. The present name is a transfer from nearby Old Damascus, which was bypassed when the railroad was built through the area.


Most of these storefronts in downtown Damascus are in ruins and will soon be gone. The building on the far right was Brady’s Food Basket, the local grocery store.

One of my dad's favorite dad jokes was told every year as we drove the 1960's and 1970's back road to Panama City Beach. They had a town meeting about naming the city, they were about to agree on Kestler and the blacks in the back of the room said well damn ask us.


These warehouses were once the center of activity in Damascus. They won’t be around much longer.

Jakin

Early County was created by an act of the General Assembly on December 15, 1818. Land lots of 250 acres surveyed in 1819 and 1820 were distributed by the state in lotteries. Jakin is in the 26th land district in the southernmost end of the county.As early as 1817 settlers began moving into the area and began to build on the old Indian paths along the river. These old paths became the Old River Road in 1820 and a post road by the mid 1820s. The post riders were often harassed by Indians. As the forests along the river were cleared, large plantations and fine frame homes began to appear. The Chattahoochee River, 3 miles to the west, was the main source of transportation, bearing downstream huge square-cut timbers to Apalachicola, Florida, for ship building and turpentine for export, and bearing cotton upstream to the cotton mills in Columbus. In 1821 the Armstrong and Attaway Company built the first cotton gin at nearby Saffold Navy Yard.


Mosely Building, Circa 1910, Jakin The right side of this building served as the Mosely Drug Company from 1910-1927. The remainder was a general store.

The first families established here were the Allens, Rambos, Donalsons, Harrells, Shewmakes, Saffolds, Johnsons, Hayes, Gibsons, Crawfords, and Moodys. In 1828 a road was made from Blakely to Bainbridge on which settled the Hodges, Warrens, Minters, Easoms and Perrys. These families pioneered what became Jakin. In May 1878 C.A. Minter, a physician, purchased three lots, roughly 750 acres of land, for $10 and a shotgun. The first mayor of Jakin, James Morris "Major" Bivings, named the town "Jakin" after one of the columns of Solomon's temple.

In addition to small farm agriculture, Jakin's early economic growth resulted from turpentine. The unspoiled longleaf pine forests were prime resources, first for turpentine then lumber. Bivings and his partner, James W. Duke of Chicago, founded the Duke and Bivings Lumber Company complete with housing, commissary and post office. Bivings served as the first postmaster. On January 3, 1898, the Flowers Company purchased the lumber mill for $20,000. In addition to machines, buildings and materials, the purchase included 160 acres of land and a railway. According to published town history, an estimated 1,000 workers were employed by the mill. In 1903 Jakin's population was 2,000. World War I and deforestation led to the closure of the lumber mill in 1918.


Bank of Jakin, 1912 This building was built in 1912.This served as Jakin’s only bank when nearly 2000 people called the area home during the lumber boom of the early 20th century. The charter for the bank was granted to Elisha Hilton. From 1923 to 1988, it served as the post office and today is in use as the city hall. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. It is a one-story brick Early Commercial style building with a flat roof. It has a "stepped parapet roof with corbeled brick and recessed brick panels along the cornice."

Agriculture served as Jakin's main industry until 1963, with Great Northern Nekoosa's purchase of a family-owned lumber mill which later became Great Southern Paper, which also ran a plywood mill in nearby Cedar Springs. Great Southern Paper was acquired by Georgia-Pacific in 1990. In 2005 GP was acquired by the privately held Koch Industries. Despite changing ownership, the mill has operated continuously.

Jane Donalson Harrell House, Circa 1855, Early County

The Jane Donalson Harrell House, located near the Chattahoochee River on County Route 1975 about .6 miles south of U.S. 84 in Jakin, Georgia, was built around 1855. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.



There are many significant aspects to this house, not least of which is its original ownership by a woman, independent of her husband’s assets. It’s a wonderful example of a Plantation Plain converted to the vernacular Greek Revival. In consideration of resources available to me, there is some confusion as to the date of construction. While a sign on the property dates the house to 1840 and names it Echodell, the National Register nomination form (which was written over 30 years ago; new information has come from subsequent research), the property wasn’t even purchased until 1842, by Jane Donalson Harrell’s brother, Ruben Donalson. The majority of the property was later secured by his brother but four acres on the southwest section were set aside for his sister, Jane, in 1855. She and her husband, Dempsey Harrell, operated a cotton plantation here. Jane’s marriage contract stipulated that she would retain ownership of this property, a relatively uncommon arrangement in antebellum Georgia.



Around 1870 the house was inherited by a daughter’s husband, Dr. Augustus D. Shewmake. Dr. Shewmake kept a medical office and infirmary in a wing he added to the house (since removed). Also significant, he hired a governess to teach both black and white children on the plantation. This was relatively uncommon in the years following the Civil War. I hope to clarify the history as this is one of the nicest antebellum homes in this section of Georgia. Update: Through communication with the owners I’ve learned that the house was badly damaged by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. They are presently working through red tape to properly restore it.

Towns of Early County

Blakely

The city of Blakely is the county seat of Early County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 5,068. It is located approximately halfway between Columbus and Tallahassee, Florida on U.S. Route 27.


Peanut Festival.

Blakely was platted in 1825 as the county seat for Early County. It was named for Johnston Blakeley, an officer in the War of 1812. Master Commandant Blakeley was appointed to command of the newly built sloop-of-war Wasp.



In 1814, he made a very successful cruise which in June included the sinking of the HMS Reindeer.



In September, in a similar action, Blakeley sunk the HMS Avon.



That month he also captured the mercantile brig Atalanta. Wasp was last heard of 9 October 1814 and is believed to have foundered in a gale.


Perry, Bainbridge, Decatur, Blakeley, Lawrenceville, only David Porter is not a Georgia City.

The Early County Courthouse (also known as the Grand Ole Lady) is the historic county courthouse of Early County, Georgia, located on Courthouse Square in Blakely, Georgia, the county seat.



It was built in 1904 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 18, 1980. It is also a contributing building in the Blakely Court Square Historic District.

History

Early County was chartered in 1818 and Blakely was established as the county seat in 1825. Early County's first courthouse was a log building, first used in 1827. That building was sold for $13 and moved, making way for the second courthouse. That two-story wooden structure was built in 1834.


Noted as first courthouse, but I believe this is third courthouse of Early County.

The county's third courthouse, a western-facing building, was built in 1857-58 by Thomas Williams for $4,650; it was sold for $155 to make way for the fourth and present courthouse, built in 1904-1905. The third courthouse was described by the Early County News as dangerously unsafe and dilapidated. The proposal to build a new court building "was tinted with a light wash of New South fervor and an outpouring of self-promotion."



The grand jury recommended a new courthouse, and a January 1905 piece by the Early County News praised an architectural rendering of the proposed design by the architects Thomas Henry Morgan and John Robert Dillon, as "the handsomest structure of its kind in Southern Georgia", which would "be in keeping with the wealth and prosperity of Early County--the Garden spot of Georgia."

Design

The courthouse is two and half stories and is made of brick on the exterior, with marble floors in the main public spaces. It is in the Neoclassical (Classical Revival) style and is surrounded by smaller buildings, grass, and trees, providing a recreational space and a center for community activities.



The courthouse in designed a cross plan; each of the building's four facades is fronted with four rusticated Georgia columns of solid granite, which support the porticoes facing Courthouse Square. The courthouse has a low dome, of the Beaux-Arts style.



On the courthouse square stands an original wooden Confederate flagpole, erected in 1861, which flies the Stars and Stripes; it was hewn from a long leaf pine harvested about a mile from the county seat. The flagpole is 100 feet tall and is believed to be the only original Confederate flagpole still standing.



The courthouse square also contains a monument to the peanut, carved in stone atop a pedestal, commemorating the enduring importance of this cash crop to the region.

Blakely Court Square Historic District

The Blakely Court Square Historic District is a 30 acres historic district in Blakely in Early County, Georgia which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.



The district is centered on the Early County Courthouse and is bounded by Powell Street, Smith Aveue, and Church Street and Bay Street.



It included 72 contributing buildings, two contributing structures, and two contributing objects. It also included 21 non-contributing buildings and one non-contributing object.



It was deemed significant in the areas of architecture, community planning and development, politics/government and commerce. Its architectural landmarks include:

Early County Courthouse (1905), neo-Classical
United States Post Office (1937), Stripped Classical
Blakely City Hall and Fire Department (1939), the Colonial Revival-style
Early County Jail (1940), Art Deco
two churches in Gothic Revival-style.




Blakely has done a nice job of preserving and maintaining the historic storefronts surrounding the courthouse. Two of the highlights are seen above. The Blakely Theatre (1936) has been restored for use as a performing arts space. Unlike most small-town theatres, which were built in the Art Deco style, the Blakely was built with Colonial Revival features. The Alexander Building (1904) is an unusually well-preserved turn-of-the-century commercial block which has recently been restored.



The Peanut Corporation of America had a factory in Blakely that produced peanut paste. FBI and FDA officials said the plant's officials and workers were suspected of spreading salmonella bacteria in 2007-2009 by knowingly allowing products that had tested positive to be re-tested as negatives and then allowing them to be shipped out despite the fact they could have been positive. This likely contributed to numerous illnesses and at least eight deaths. A massive nationwide recall of many products took place. The company shut the plant and laid off all of the plant's roughly 50 employees for the duration of the investigation.



The non-profit group Early County 2055 established its headquarters on Court Square in Blakely. Funding for the long-term development plan for the revitalization of the city and county was led by the Charles Rice Family and Foundation.



Blakely is the base of the Early County School System, which has a newly renovated football stadium and gymnasium.


Old Early County High School.

Blakely also opened a new sportsplex, named in memorial and honor of local coach Ray Knight. It has multiple softball, baseball, and multi-purpose fields, and is operated by the Blakely-Early County Recreation Department.


Blakely Methodist Church, 1901 The Methodists first organized in Blakely in 1853 by the circuit riding reverend Ira Cook. The first church building was located on Court Square and was shared with the Presbyterians. The congregation grew rapidly over the next half century and the present church was constructed in 1901.

James and Clara Butler House

The James and Clara Butler House, at 418 College St. in Blakely, Georgia, was built around 1890. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. It is a one-story, frame, Folk Victorian-style, Georgian cottage. It has a steep side-gable roof.It was expanded before the 1930s by the addition of a two-room ell, and further additions were made to the left rear, to the right side, and to the rear, between 1937 and 1950.It was deemed notable as a good example of a Folk Victorian-style Georgian cottage. It was one of only two such houses identified in a survey of historic houses in Blakely.



The NRHP nomination states: The house retains its original exterior character-defining features including the Folk Victorian details of the porch with its chamfered posts, scrollwork, unusual wainscoting, and balustrade; sidelights and transom; scrolled bargeboard in the gable ends; and gable things [sic]. As defined in Georgia's Living Places: Historic Houses in Their Landscaped Settings, the house retains its Georgian cottage plan with two rooms flanking a center hall with interior chimneys between each pair of rooms. The Georgian cottage was the most popular and long-lived house type in Georgia, with the greatest concentration built between 1850 and 1890. The house also retains its interior features including original wood walls, ceilings, floors, doors, and two original mantels.

Census-designated places of Early County

Cedar Springs

Cedar Springs is a census-designated place and unincorporated community in Early County, Georgia, United States. Its population was 74 as of the 2010 census. Georgia State Route 273 passes through the community. Georgia Pacific is 2 miles southwest from it.The community was so named on account of a number of mineral springs near the original town site.



This the first aid/hospital of Cedar Springs. It was moved there in the 1960’s from the little dirt road behind Johnny Golden’s store. It was a barber shop (drinking spot) that was run by Bill Adams and he later moved his shop to Columbia, Alabama, to the old Orr’s Gun Shop on Highway 52. The other was a beauty shop run by May Megahee. Originally it was a dispensary and band room at the Cedar Springs Academy. The first time it was moved, it was used as a post office. It was later moved again to its current location and was used as a barbershop. Dr. Crozier’s house was the medical facility of Cedar Springs.

Other unincorporated communities of Early County

Bancroft

Cederville

Colomokee


A post office called Colomokee was established in 1896, and remained in operation until 1905. A variant name was "Kolomoki". The community takes its name from Kolomoki Creek.

Crossroads

Cuba


A post office called Cuba was established in 1883, and remained in operation until 1890. The community takes its name from the island of Cuba.

Douglass Crossroads

Douglasville

Ferrell Crossroads


Freeman

The first permanent settlement at Freeman was made in the 1840s. A post office called Freeman was in operation from 1900 until 1902.

Hentown

The community was named for the fact a local resident kept a large flock of chickens.

Hilton

Hilton was founded about 1880, and named after Elisha Hilton, a local merchant. The Georgia General Assembly incorporated the place in 1889 as the Town of Hilton. The town's charter was dissolved in 1995.

Hilton School





Hilton United Methodist Church





Howards Mill

Jones Crossroads


The community was named after Christopher Columbus Jones, the original owner of the town site. Previous variant names are "Palina", "Paulina" and "Union".


The R. M. Jones General Store, a historic country store listed on the National Register of Historic Places, stands at Jones Crossroads.

Killarney

A post office called Killarney was established in 1900, and remained in operation until 1905. The community was named after Killarney, in Ireland.

Liberty

Lucile

A post office called Lucile was established in 1899, and remained in operation until 1903. An early variant name was "Racketville". The present name is after Lucille Middleton, the daughter of the local postmaster.

Luke

McLendon

New Hope


The first permanent settlement at New Hope was made ca. 1860. The post office at New Hope was called "Fitzhugh". This post office was in operation from 1898 until 1902.

Nicholasville

A variant name was "Nickelville". According to tradition, the community was first called "Nickelville" because whiskey drinks were sold at the local country store for just one nickel.

Pleasant Hill

Rock Hill


The community was named for a rocky hill near the original town site.

Rowena

The community was named after one Rowena Collins.


Vanishing Rowena.

Saffold

The community has the name of a local family of early settlers. Saffold is located just across the Chattahoochee River from Alabama. It was the site of the Southern Confederate States Navy Yard during the Civil War and at least one gunboat, aptly named Chattahoochee, was completed here.


Confederate Navy Yard, Saffold


Looking west on US 84 toward the bridge over the Chattahoochee River and the Alabama State Line (just visible in the distance).


The sign is at the same intersection, on the opposite side of Confederate Naval Yard Road from the marker. No trace of the Naval Yard remains.

Sowhatchee



Springfield


Urquhart

The community was named after Dr. J. Q. Urquhart, a country physician.

Other Historical Markers and War Memorials in Early County, Georgia

Centerville United Methodist Church





Old Factory Creek



The Blakeley visitor web sight provides this image of Grimsley Mill Falls.



Three Notch Trail




Looking south from the intersection of Lucile Highway, GA Highway 39, on the left and Old Lucile Road to the right.

Second Three Notch Trail Marker




Looking south on Fort Gaines Highway, GA Highway 39, toward Blakely

Notable people of Early County

James Earl Carter, Sr., farmer, businessman, legislator, father of President Jimmy Carter.


James Carter Sr. and Lillian.

Isabelle Daniels Holston, 1956 Olympic bronze medal winner.


Daniels (left) vs. Giuseppina Leone at the 1956 Olympics.

Robbie Robinson, bodybuilder, actor, three-time Mr. Universe overall winner back in the 1970's.


The Black Prince then and still today.

Shawn Williams American football player, Georgia Bulldogs and Cincinnati Bengals.


Recently known for stepping on Solomon Kindley's foot after a play.

Wooo, lot of stuff for little County. Today's GNW Gals fall in line with the theme of Early County. They are Early in the morning Gals.





Edited 16 time(s). Last edit at 12/17/2020 12:56AM by Top Row Dawg.
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Georgia Natural Wonder #172 - Kolomoki Mounds - Early County

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