Gresston, Georgia

Gresston GA G V Gress Dodge County Old Mercantile Store Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

In her History of Dodge County (Atlanta, Foote & Davies, 1932), Mrs. Wilton Philip Cobb wrote: Situated about eight miles north of Eastman, on the Southern Railway, is the little town of Gresston. This town was named for Mr. G. V. Gress, who in 1883 built one of the largest sawmills in the South at this point. In connection with the sawmill was a large dry kiln plant, the first of its kind in this section. Although here was the best yellow pine timber, which was both plentiful and cheap, the mills at that time were having trouble in disposing of their lumber…because of low price and the lack of demand. G. V. Gress was quick to see the advantage of selling a finished product, and he made a trade with a Mr. Moore, of the Moore Dry Kiln Co., to build these dry kilns, which were among the first in the South.

the Gress mill had a big advantage over the less progressive manufacturers and as a result the Gress Lumber Company built up a profitable business…

The mill town of Gresston grew and flourished for many years, but like all sawmill towns of those early days, when the mills were through and moved away, the town also went. All that is left of this once flourishing town are a few residences and a mercantile establishment and a large ginnery that are owned and operated by Ragan Brothers…Claud and R. T., of Eastman.

After retiring from the lumber business, Mr. Gress moved to Atlanta, where in 1889 he presented the city with the menagerie that would become today’s Zoo Atlanta.  He also purchased the Cyclorama in Grant Park and presented it to the city. He later moved to Jacksonville, Florida.

2 thoughts on “Gresston, Georgia

  1. Patti

    Your article was interesting. I’ve lived in Georgia my whole life and I didn’t know the story of the zoo, it was always just there, if that makes sense. Anyway, love your work. Keep it up!!

  2. Jesse M. Bookhardt

    Reading Gresston’s history brings back the many trips that I have made along that stretch of road. Often I have wondered about its story. When passing through, I have always felt sad knowing that the place must have once been thriving, but now is only a reflection of something much more alive. The sandy Turkey Oak hills that surround the place harkens back to my past exploring the flat woods of Wire Grass Georgia. The remnants of Longleaf Pines can still be seen springing from the ditches and roadsides, but the once magnificent forest has long since passed along with the era of sawdust piles, turpentine boxes, barrels, and stills.
    Gresston is iconic and represents a host of other late 19th century and early 20th century South Georgia places that had their heyday but have long fell to the whims of an every changing economy, and to the constant ravages of time. Today the forest industry still is a major player in Georgia, yet there will never be a world like that which existed in rural South Georgia from just after the Civil War up to the Second World war. The Longleaf forest has vanished, and the turpentine trees have been cut, leaving only a few Catfaces. Old tar covered barrels, and some era photos of an Ox pulling a huge pine down a swampy path might still be found in dust covered trunks and antique stores. That time has passed and along with it places like Gresston.


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