Category Archives: –ATKINSON COUNTY GA–

Commissary, Sandy Bottom

This was likely a turpentine commissary or general store, based on the floor plan.

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Unidentified Building, 1924, Sandy Bottom

This structure appears to have been last used as a residence, but the layout indicates it could have been a church at one time. I will update when if I learn more about it.

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Bessie McKnight Jones Memorial, 1929, Sandy Bottom

Situated in a small isolated cemetery, this vernacular headstone is an extraordinary work of African-American folk art. Details indicate the hand of someone with above-average skills in the medium, especially the braided pony tail and the eyes and eyelashes. And though time has been relatively kind to the sculpture, gravity is now its greatest threat. The grave is buckling and, without stabilization, the headstone will likely fall face-forward in the future. At this point, there is no way to definitively determine the maker, but such memorials were often created by a parent or husband.

Very little is known about Mrs. Jones, but her death certificate states that she was a housewife and married to Lonnie Jones. Her father, John McKnight, was born in South Carolina in 1888, and her mother, Amelia ‘Mealie’ Montgomery, born in 1890, was also a native of South Carolina. They were all living in Clinch County in the first decade of the 20th century [this section of Clinch became part of Atkinson County upon its formation in 1917]. Bessie was born in 1908 and was 21 years old at the time of her death from malaria, on 2 November 1929.

I’m grateful to Cynthia Jennings for bringing this treasure to my attention. Cynthia and Mandy Green Yates accompanied me to the cemetery on a recent photo trip. Cynthia notes that she has encountered quite a few difficulties in researching Mrs. Jones’s family but has learned her husband Lonnie was a turpentine laborer, was 20 years older than Bessie, and that she was his second wife. She also notes that some of the McKnight family were in Virginia by the 1930s. She identified the following siblings in Bessie’s family tree: Prince; Mitchell; Lizzie A.; Venis; Varnetta; Hettie; and Maggie McKnight. Hopefully, these clues will lead to more information.

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O’Berry Tobacco Barn, Sandy Bottom

This is a truly amazing example of an early-20th-century log tobacco barn. It likely dates to the 1930s.

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Tenant House, Atkinson County

This house likely has connections to the turpentine industry.

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Tenant Farmhouse, Atkinson County

This tenant farmhouse features an added room. Though these additions are sometimes called “preacher’s rooms”, they were often simply made to accommodate growing families.

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Elijah Paulk House, 1895, Willacoochee

This Willacoochee landmark is a familiar sight to anyone who has traveled through the town on US Highway 82. It was built by Coffee County pioneer Elijah “Lige” Paulk (1867-1896) for his bride, Laura Corbitt,  in 1895. [Willacoochee was still in Coffee County at the time]. Sadly, Mr. Paulk died the next year. The 31 January 1896 edition of the Douglas Breeze notes in his obituary: Mr. Paulk was about twenty eight years old, and had been married only about three months to Miss Laura Corbett of this county. Although he was young in years he, by correct business methods and close application, had accumulated a nice property, and his home in Willacoochee was one of the best in the county…

Veryl & Lucille Boatright bought the house in 1948 and it remains in their family.

Thanks to Kim Jones for sharing this with Loretta Goff McCranie and Betty Boatwright who filled in the blanks on the history. Some of the information is included in a publication by the Southeast Georgia Area Planning and Development Commission entitled An Inventory of Historical Sites in the Southeast Georgia Area. Its authors note that the house originally had a double veranda, and it retained its wainscoted ceilings and walls, a stained glass transom over the front door, and that that pressed tin roof was original.

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Willacoochee Elementary School, 1924

I’ve always admired this unusually large wooden structure and until recently knew nothing of its history. It has been in an advanced state of decline for many years.

Harvey Williams notes that it was the elementary school (segregated) and later a coat factory, owned by Sheila Gaskins. It’s a very large school for such a small town, and may have served more grades when it was first built.

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Old Library, Willacoochee

This log building once served as the Willacoochee library. It has most recently been used as a thrift shop by the United Methodist Church.

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Alapaha River, Berrien-Atkinson County Line

Near the forgotten community of Bannockburn, the Alapaha River marks the boundary between Berrien and Atkinson counties. The Georgia Highway 135 bridge that crosses here normally spans a smallish stream, but if you wonder why it’s so big, check out a Google Earth view of the river at high water. It fills up quickly. [Note the pilings of an old bridge or trestle in the sandbar]. At present (early autumn 2019) the river is low enough to ford and not even get your knees wet. The Alapaha is special to me because Lucy Lake (an Alapaha oxbow in northern Berrien County) was the first place my father took my brother and me river fishing. It had been a popular spot with locals for many years and he had fished there with his father and uncles many times as a young man himself. The river seemed so much bigger to me then.

The Alapaha is one of Georgia’s most beautiful black water rivers. Little known to people not near its banks, it rises in southern Dooly County and meanders southeastward toward its confluence with the Suwannee River near Jasper, Florida. During this course it collects the Wilacoochee, Alapahoochee, and Little Alapaha rivers. An intermittent river, it goes underground through parts of its course, especially in Hamilton County, Florida. A famous locale there, near Jennings, is the Dead River Sink.

The earliest known reference to the Alapaha was made by Hernando de Soto’s expedition. It noted a village near the Suwannee known as Yupaha, in the 16th century.

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