House Creek Boils, Wilcox County

Known locally as “The Boils”, this natural Eden is an oxbow of House Creek, a tributary of the Ocmulgee River near the Wilcox-Ben Hill County line, which has been protected by the Fuller family for the better part of two centuries. There are several other well-known boils in this area, including Oscewicee [pronounced ossi-witchy] Springs and Lake Wilco. None of these are open or accessible to the public, though Oscewicee Springs once was. Elizabeth Sizemore recalls another site north of The Boils, Poor Robin Springs near Abbeville.

In South Georgia, the term “boils” is commonly used to describe natural springs found in creeks, rivers, oxbows, and swamps. Water rises rapidly from an underground fissure and appears to be bubbling or boiling. With an average temperature of 68-70°F year-round, unaffected by the air temperature, they are warm in winter and famously cold in summer.

Native Americans would have been the first humans to appreciate these mystical places, using them in much the same ways we use them today. They were likely sacred to the tribes who knew them, both for their beauty and their unique qualities when compared to other aspects of the nearby terrain.

One of their most appealing features is the clear water which gives them a blue appearance, looking more like a tropical sea than a Coastal Plains swamp. Since tea-colored or muddy waters are the norm in these parts, they really stand out. I have treasured memories of swimming in these places as a young man, especially on holidays when we’d float watermelons near the sides to keep them cool.

In the 1940s, biologist Brooke Meanley did fieldwork here, some of which eventually appeared in his book, Swamps, River Bottoms & Canebrakes. Local farmer and naturalist Milton Hopkins and renowned woodcarver C. M. Copeland were also regular visitors for many years, welcomed enthusiastically by “Uncle Guy” Fuller. Hopkins made detailed observations on local birdlife and C. M. Copeland ventured into the surrounding swamps and collected cypress knees to use in his carvings.

The site was documented by David Stanley for the American Folklife Center circa 1977, as well. Some of his notes and images can be found in the Library of Congress.

Ken Fuller

I’m grateful to Ken Fuller for allowing me to photograph this incredibly special place and to share it with you. My father and I really enjoyed our last visit here, as we do all our visits with Ken and family.

We saw some amazing trees.

This view from the House Creek “side” of The Boils, along with Ken’s lifelong memories of the place, was ample reward for our hike.


12 thoughts on “House Creek Boils, Wilcox County

  1. Gloria Hayes

    Hi, Brian- LOVE your work ! I’ve been a fan for far more than a decade ! Question: Did you have a chance and take any pictures of a place called Toney Ford, on House Creek, there in Wilcox? I was taken there once as a little bitty girl-training panties and all- and I have a distinct memory of it, but I don’t know if it looks like my memory of it ! It is a precious memory, as my uncles ,cousins, and other kin were all there.

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Posts of 2022 | Vanishing Georgia: Photographs by Brian Brown

  3. Emmett Johnson

    I remember going regularly to what was known of as Spring Lake. There was a huge boil and behind it was a clubhouse. The water ran down a beautiful clear stream to the Ocmulgee river., Once or twice we went as a family to the spring and afterwards went towards Rhine to the home of a gentleman that I have thought was Bill Wilcox??. He had a blockhouse in his yard that he had small cartons of Ice Cream. He always offered us some. Many times I went to the springs with my Grandfather, L.P. Rawlins who was a friend of the owners of the springs. I owned land back towards Jacksonville on the county line between Telfair and Dodge Counties.

  4. John Van Dalen

    Thanks for sharing this special place, Brian. What a gift to have access to these springs.

    I have a lifelong fascination with springs and will never forget the beautiful ones I saw years ago in the southern Missouri Ozarks. But it’s in the arid West that they assume their most mystical appeal, for so many reasons, symbolic and otherwise.

    Will be getting g in touch soon. Your work and archive are a treasure.

  5. Luther Overstreet

    Have been fortunate enough to visit all of these
    wonderfully special places and two others in the same general are. One of these other boils is at the end of Rhodes
    lake and the other is unnamed as far as I know
    on the east side of the Ocmulgee River across
    from Statham Shoals. Thankfully these wonders have been
    preserved and protected by family ownership over the years.

  6. John Harrison

    I was lucky enough to know Milton “Buddy” Hopkins and to visit his special house, the old Osierfield railroad depot if I remember correctly, and his land. I have the memoir book he wrote too. Janisse Ray talked him into writing it.
    I also some some of Copeland’s ‘critter’ carvings. They’re special.

  7. Brenda T Sizemore

    I grew up in Abbeville and learned to swim at Poor Robin. Osscewicee was for special occasions like Vacation Bible school picnics. The experience at the springs made wonderful memories. Thank you for covering this area, it is a beautiful site for anyone not familiar .

  8. Sharon

    Brian, thank you so much for these lovely photos and the article about “The Boils”. I settled in Fitzgerald 38 years ago, and although I’ve heard about “The Boils”, I’ve never been there.


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