The Last Raft Monument, McRae’s Landing

In 1982, Dr. Delma Presley, a professor at Georgia Southern organized Project R.A.F.T. as a way to honor the memories of the men who floated timber down the Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers in the early part of the 20th century. R.A.F.T. was an acronym for Restore Altamaha Folklife Traditions. The project was a huge success and was coordinated with folklife festivals along the river. Author Brainard Cheney, a native of Fitzgerald who had written several popular novels about life on the river was also active in the project and spoke at numerous locations along the route. I wrote to Dr. Presley about his book Okefinokee Album (still in print!)and his work with Project R.A.F.T. when I was still in high school and he sent me a video tape and souvenir program of the project, which was my first exposure to local documentary work. I finally got to meet Dr. Presley in 2011 at a presentation to the Long County Chamber of Commerce and  he still has fond memories of this project, especially of the last raft pilot, the late Bill Deen. Dr. Presley himself is quite an accomplished scholar and was one of Georgia Southern’s most popular professors, combining his passion for literature with a passion to preserve and document the rapidly vanishing folk culture of Southeast Georgia. In fact, he’s been compiling research on the human history of the Altamaha River for over thirty years. He was also instrumental in establishing the Georgia Southern University Museum.

Text on Monument:

On April 3, 1982, Piloted by Captain Bill Deen, Age 90, the Last Raft of Georgia Pine Timber Began a Journey of 140 Miles Down the Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers to the Coastal City of Darien, Georgia. Smaller than the Great Rafts of the 1880s, the Raft of 1982 was 85 by 30 Feet and Weighed Almost 50 Tons. Oar Sweeps of 35 Feet Were at Each End. After Stopping for Folk Festivals Near Baxley and Jesup, the Raft and a Crew of 8 Arrived in Darien on April 20. The Rafthands of 1982 and Today Honor All Who Know and Love Our Rivers, Land, and People.

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McRae’s Landing, Ocmulgee River © Brian Brown 2012.

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Delma Presely, Brian Brown & Cecil Nobles © Mike McCall, 2011.

I’m pictured here with Dr. Del Presley (Front) and the late Long County Sheriff Cecil Nobles (Rear) at a 2011 Long County Chamber of Commerce event. Sheriff Nobles was very supportive of Dr. Presley’s research on the river.

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-547

http://ceps.georgiasouthern.edu/museum/

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7 Comments

Filed under --TELFAIR COUNTY GA--, Lumber City GA

7 responses to “The Last Raft Monument, McRae’s Landing

  1. Jesse Bookhardt

    Brian,
    Once again thanks for your efforts to save and share a vanishing South Georgia. Such contributions are significant and helps spread knowledge of our rich South Georgia heritage and culture. Many of us who appreciate your work no longer live in South Georgia but our hearts remain. We were born and grew-up there. Our essential elements still carry the “genes” of sandy flats, broad meandering rivers, green fields, and majestic woodlands. We understand the language, the habits, the spirit and the nature of her people. When we speak of home, we are talking about the land of our birth. Scenes that you share over the Internet reminds us of our roots, making home as near as a click of the “mouse” no matter where we roam.
    Born in a clapboard unpainted sharecropper’s shack perched on a fallow field, next to a winding sandy dirt road in Jeff Davis County, I am deeply appreciative of your work. Though the material structures of our childhoods are vanishing at a rather rapid pace, our memories are stimulated and soothed by your pictures and the comments of others. Seeing the “raft marker” at McRae’s Landing, brings back memories of that section of the Ocmulgee when we fished it. Along the river the many descriptive and colorful names remind us of the river’s role in the history of Georgia. I remember Burkett’s Ferry, Mosquito Bight Bluff, Rocky Hammock, Dodge’s Boom Eddy, Cypress Nursery, Flat Tub, Old River, Pipe Creek, Horse Creek, Montgomery Lake, and other names. Some of these names were associated with the log rafting days.
    Keep up the good work, for indeed a picture is worth a thousand words. All though, on your site we can have both—pictures and words.

  2. Randall Davis Barfield

    You are doing a very memorable and noble work with your photography. Many generations will benefit from this in so many ways. May you enjoy continued energy and good luck.

  3. thanks for this look at the river and another book to read.

    • Magnolia

      Wonderful post. Thank you for all the work you do to capture such a beautiful part of our state. Dr. Presley’s work is also described in Janisse Ray’s fantastic book Drifting into Darien.

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