Photograph Courtesy of Mark Dixon
Nathan Bridges was born into slavery in 1857 and even recalled working inside the home of his owner as a small boy. Also against convention, he learned to read and write. He settled in Alapaha around 1880. He was a subcontractor who hauled sawdust from the area mills. He bought town lots during this time and eventually had significant real estate holdings for an African-American of his time. Around 1900 he opened an ice house near the Ocilla Southern depot in Alapaha. He first made deliveries with a wheelbarrow and eventually a mule and wagon. He expanded to groceries as his business grew. A niece recalled that they always went to Nathan’s store because the candy was cheaper than anywhere else in town. Bridges was a respected citizen of Alapaha and served on the Board of Trustees that created the Alapaha Colored School, along with his step-grandson, Brute Shipman. Nathan Bridges died in 1940 and his business was continued by Brute Shipman.
Thanks to Mark Dixon for sharing the photograph and the history. He notes: In the 1980’s, I would visit an older black man named Neil Shipman. Neil’s grandfather was Neil Graham Shipman, who came to Alapaha in 1884 from North Carolina to work in the gum production industry. He married the stepdaughter of Nathan Bridges. Most of my info on this family came from Neil. He died around 1989.
I think this has been home to several restaurants over the years.
Built to lure travelers off busy US Highway 82 (likely in the 1940s), Toby Powell’s Motel & Grill is still relatively intact. The eclectic architecture of the office/restaurant at first appears to be a crumbling facade, but it was built that way! For a time after its original use was supplanted, it served as a grocery store and Virginia’s Beauty Lounge.
Below is a contemporary postcard view.
From the Macon Telegraph, 24 March 1886:…a new hotel, two stories high, nicely fitted up and well kept. Dr. J.A. Fogle, one of the most clever men you would meet in a week’s hard riding, is the proprietor, but his time is mostly devoted to an extensive practice and to his well stocked drug store. The hotel is presided over by Mrs. Fogle, a lady of refinement and most pleasant manner, ably assisted by her sister, Miss Fannie Leonard. The table is bountifully supplied with tempting fare, the sleeping apartments are models of cleanliness and comfort, and the attention to guests is prompt and courteous. The commercial tourists are fond in their praise of it, and you know they are, generally speaking, a difficult set to please.
Alapaha native and author Cynthia Shearer (The Wonder Book of the Air; The Celestial Jukebox) related this to me in an email: Later it was the Shockely Hotel, and the last proprietor of it, Ida Shockley Creech, sold it to an artist. The artist’s wife still lives there, I believe. I grew up in Alapaha, and ate many a Sunday dinner there…
This is now a private residence.
This house was built by Dr. William Aaron Moore and his wife Roxie Wycoff Moore. He was an M.D. and she was an R. N. In recent years, it has fallen into disrepair and is presently for sale. I sincerely hope someone will realize the potential in it and work to save it. Thanks to Dr. Moore’s granddaughter, Carole Wingate Keefe, for the identification. She recalled: It was located right across from the depot and when trains came through at night, the noise was an eye opener. Mark Dixon, author of a centennial history of Alapaha in 1981, confirms this information.
Thanks to Mark Dixon for the identification. This saddlebag house is in critical condition and needs a buyer to save it.
This served the black community of Alapaha until 1954. Recently restored, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a nice example of an African-American vernacular schoolhouse. Mark Dixon writes that Nathan Bridges, Brutus Shipman, and T. H. Smith were the first trustees of the school.
Please visit the wonderful Berrien Historical Foundation website for more photos, as well as a video of the Alapaha Colored School.
National Register of Historic Places
From the history, One Faith, One Family: Diocese of Savannah: 1850-2000: “A Catholic community established a church on the James C. Murray farm 2.6 miles from Alapaha in about 1840…The Catholic community was then known as Saint Patrick’s and was commonly called “Murray Church.” [As the need grew for a more substantial church than the log cabin located on the Murray farm] land was purchased near Alapaha Station in 1901 for the token sum of $25 from John J. Paulk…the new church, Saint Bridget’s, was completed in 1902…[by 1942, this structure was vacated and the present St. Ann’s Catholic Church built]
This is now home to Greater Macedonia C. M. E. Church, and is undergoing renovation.
The Savannah, Florida & Western depot at Alapaha, built in the late 1800s, has survived longer than the town’s ralroad line, which was abandoned in 1985. The tracks, now long gone, were used by the Brunswick & Albany, the Brunswick & Western, the Savannah, Florida & Western, the Plant System, the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Coast Line, and the Seaboard System Railroad. Used for a time as the city hall, the depot now stands vacant.