Category Archives: –COFFEE COUNTY GA–
Some of you may remember this old farmhouse on the outskirts of Broxton that I photographed a few years ago. It originally featured a mural (seen below) done by owner Linda Christian. She really enjoyed doing it and was happy that it brought lots of joy to passersby on US441. It’s presently being spruced up, with a new face, by Dylan Ross. Dylan is a native of Coffee County whose extraordinary talent has garnered him scores of impressive clients and fans ranging from Aaron Murray and Luke Bryan to Lennox Lewis and Dennis Rodman. His work is really fresh and colorful and he’s a working artist in the sense that he’s always creating art. Please visit and like his Facebook page, or link to his website below.
This church was organized at Mobley’s Schoolhouse in 1911, but the congregation was too large for that facility. This structure was built soon thereafter. The church is named for Mrs. Mary Newbern Smith, who I assume may have given the land for the construction of the church, but I can’t confirm that at this time.
I originally thought it was abandoned, but it’s still active. Reverend Beverly E. King is pastor. They have services there on the second and fourth Sundays at 10:00 A.M. and also have 100% attendance most of the time.
Historically, this church served as Saint Paul’s Catholic Church, though it recently became the home of Saint Andrew’s Anglican. Since the church is primarily known for its Catholic associations, it is that history (from the Diocese of Savannah History book) which I’ll share here: …In the 19th century, Catholics were scarce in South Georgia. In 1898, Bishop Thomas A. Becker entrusted what was then the Albany Mission to the care of priests of the Jesuit Order. Later, he divided this territory, allocating the southeastern section to Marists who had recently arrived in Brunswick. Specifically, Marist priests were to serve Johnston Station, Willacoochee and Alapaha. Johnston Station had no church at this time. Willacoochee had a frame building for services and Alapaha had a small log cabin surrounded by a little cemetery belonging to the Murray family who were Catholic.
In time, visiting priests discovered a few Catholics in McGovern’s Settlement and learned of a “Mrs. Creel” in Douglas. Local lore disclosed that Catholic families in other parts of Coffee County had never heard of members of their faith’s being in Douglas before 1899 when Mrs. Creel’s baby was baptized. By 1901, the territory was restored to Albany’s care. In the early 1900s, several Syrian families moved to Douglas and Mass was celebrated there twice a month. Things remained about the same for some time.
They changed radically when the new Bishop of Savannah, Gerald P. O’Hara, visited Douglas in July 1936. The 40-year-old bishop received a rousing reception. The city fathers strung electric lights on the lawn of one of the Syrian families – the Hannas. More festivities were ahead that evening when the town leaders and ministers of other faiths turned out, as well as the small Catholic community, to greet the bishop. Impressed by this reception, Bishop O’Hara – never slow to catch on – bought a piece of property for $1,000 on which to build a Catholic church. On March 6, 1936, ground was broken for the church. Two years later, on Sunday, July 17, 1938, the bishop dedicated St. Paul Catholic Church, Douglas. Fathers John Mullins and Daniel J. Bourke, were named pastor and assistant, respectively.
Rogers Studio Collection – Courtesy of Tom Johnson
Thanks to Tom Johnson, who is working on digitzing the Rogers Studio Collection, for the above photo. It was made on 17 July 1938, the day the congregation held dedication services.
The blackwater Seventeen Mile River can be hard to find, largely due to the fact that it’s considered an “ephemeral river”. This means that it’s dry as often as it’s wet, often more so. Much of it is located on private property, as well. The best place to see this natural wonder is at General Coffee State Park.
If you’re a fisherman, the best time to visit is after a good period of rain. As a navigable stream, the Seventeen Mile River is nearly impenetrable, but several open “lakes” provide good places to fish.
Gar Lake, seen here, is one of the easiest to access.
The park prides itself on being one of the best kept secrets in the state. Its protection has enabled rare plants with limited ranges like the Green-fly Orchid (Epidendrum magnoliae) and Narrow-leaf Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia tenuifolia) to survive. Native and introduced ferns are abundant here, as well.
Macrothelypteris torresiana, known as Torres or Mariana Maiden Fern, is fairly common here. Though widely cultivated for its beauty, it’s a non-native and therefore considered invasive.
Woodwardia areolata, or Netted Chain Fern, is a widespread native and likely much more recognizable.
Evidence of the naval stores industry can be found scattered around the river, as seen in the “catface” scar on this pine.
Several long boardwalks provide easy access to the river and swamps and make for one of the most peaceful walks in South Georgia.
Many would just call this a swamp. I think of it as a piece of paradise.
Cypress is dominant here.
The knees are visible everywhere, especially in the dry beds interspersed throughout the landscape.
This view shows Coffee County on the left and Telfair County on the right.
This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending a talk about the fiction of Brainard Cheney at the Glennville Public Library. During the 1980s, Stephen Whigham recognized the importance of Cheney’s works set around the Altamaha, Ocmulgee, and Ohoopee Rivers during the late 19th century and has now brought them back into print after decades of obscurity. Lightwood, River Rogue, This is Adam, and Devil’s Elbow recall the lore of the river and the river people long gone from the landscape.
Brainard Cheney was born in Fitzgerald in 1900 and moved to Lumber City by the time he was six years old. Upon the death of his father at age eight, he and his sisters were raised by their mother. He attended the Citadel during his teen years and later, at Vanderbilt was a student of John Crowe Ransom and a roommate of Robert Penn Warren. Ransom and Penn Warren were the best-known members of the Fugitives. From 1925-1942 he worked for the Nashville Banner. (Other contemporaries were Andrew Nelson Lytle, Caroline Gordon, and Allen Tate).He and his wife Frances, herself the author of a widely-used textbook of library science, converted to Catholicism in the 1950s and became close friends of Flannery O’Connor’s. From 1952-1958, Cheney was public relations director for Tennessee Governor Frank Clement. He died in 1990 at the age of 89.
If you’re interested in the history of these rivers or the folklife of the region, I think you’d enjoy these reprints, and Stephen Whigham’s accompanying work, The Lightwood Chronicles: Being the True Story of Brainard Cheney’s Novel Lightwood. I really can’t say enough good things about how lucky we are to have renewed access to these works and the dedication of someone who believes in the literature of his region. It’s not just fiction, it’s the culture of a people nearly as gone as the Creek and the Cherokee…