Category Archives: Willacoochee GA

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.


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.

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.

Willacoochee, Georgia

Willacoochee GA Atkinson County Downtown Storefronts Fleetwood Avenue Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

These two slightly different perspectives of Fleetwood Avenue show the commercial heart of what was once a thriving town. Though Willacoochee is still an active community, its historic business and residential core was divided and forever altered by the widening of U. S. Highway 82. Still, it has great residential and commercial areas and I hope it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the future.

Willacoochee GA Atkinson County Historic Storefronts Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Here are some poignant thoughts about Willacoochee from the late Cranford Sutton, a native son and longtime local educator: When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, it was pretty self-contained, the center of the universe. We had two train lines running through here…twenty-four hours a day. Our downtown storefronts were the old-fashioned brick fronts with plate-glass windows that turned inward, inviting you in the door…I would park the pickup truck downtown at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon just to have a parking place on the front street, because by dark everyone from the surrounding countryside had come in to buy their groceries and visit. It was a huge gathering

Highway Corridor Z (U. S. Highway 82, ed.), as they call it, goes from Columbus, Georgia…to Saint Marys, Georgia…This four-lane highway came through all these small towns and destroyed their serenity and safety…All the problems now faced by Willacoochee and other small towns along Corridor Z could have been prevented if our city, county and state officials back in the 1970s had possessed wisdom and foresight.

I see in the future a revival of these wonderful small towns. I envision an exodus from the sprawl of today’s traffic-choked cities to places like Willacoochee, where walking or biking to the post office, to the grocery store, and to visit others is safe and revitalizing…

I also agree with him on that. Willacoochee truly is one of the most attractive small towns in South Georgia and has a lot of undiscovered potential. Locals know how great it is, but the outside world would be wise to take a look for themselves. I’d really like to see the community work to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Willacoochee was founded in 1889. Originally known as Danielsville, for a pioneer family in the area, its current name in honor of the river running to its west is thought to be a Native American term for “home of the wildcat”. It’s also home to the No Name Bar, made famous in the essay by Lewis Grizzard. The original bar has been replaced by a more modern structure, but remains a popular watering hole and music venue.


Abandoned Storefronts, Willacoochee

Gaskins Angel, Willacoochee

Cemetery Angel Willacoochee GA Dr. Thomas A Gaskins Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

This monument marks the plot of Dr. James A. Gaskins, his two wives and family at the historic Willacoochee City Cemetery.

Willacoochee School

Photo Courtesy Robert Deen

Robert Deen recently sent me this old photograph, which I would guess was made in the mid-to-late-1950s. The school appears to have been built in the late 1920s or early 1930s and was destroyed by arson in the early 1960s. Though it’s long gone, it still has many active alumni who gather in Willacoochee each year for a reunion, the weekend after July 4th. Mr. Deen’s mother, Ruth, taught first grade here in the 1950s. Many thanks to him for sharing this image.

McCranie’s Turpentine Still, 1936, Willacoochee

mccranie brothers turpentine still willacoochee ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2011

Built in 1936 by George F. McCranie, Jr., and his three sons, the McCranie Brothers turpentine still near Willacoochee is the last original still in its original location remaining in Georgia. It is a reminder of a time when naval stores were the only cash crop in South Georgia other than cotton.

willacoochee ga mccranie brothers photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2011

The still was active until 1942, when two of the brothers went off to war. It was a wood-burning still, built in the style of 19th-century whiskey distilleries in North Carolina. The young McCranie brothers were quite experimental, though, and charted many innovations in an effort to modernize and improve the process.  By the time of its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, this still was recognized as the most important remaining example of a naval stores operation in the state, and it remains so today.

willacoochee ga mccranie brothers turpentine still mailbox photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2011

National Register of Historic Places


Sutton House, 1899, Willacoochee


The late Cranford Sutton was Willacoochee’s unofficial historian and frequently wrote about the early days of the community. His greatest regret was that US Highway 82 divided the historic town and did away with much of its character.

Update: Blake McCranie reports that as of late May 2021, this house is no longer standing. Michael Massey, a friend of the late Mr. Sutton’s, notes that he heard the house burned. I don’t know any other details.