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The Coffee Road


    At the time that South Georgia was obtained from the Indians it was very difficult for settlers to get into the area. The General Assembly recognized the problem but not all members of the Legislature were receptive to spending state money for roads into the area. According to one member who expressed the general opinion of many others, they were opposed “to spending the State’s money trying to develop a country which God Almighty had left in an unfinished condition.”

    The Coffee Road was probably the best-known road during pioneer and ante-bellum times. It had its beginning with a treaty concluded at Fort Jackson on August 9, 1814, when the Lower Creek Indians ceded much of what is now South Georgia to General Andrew Jackson. The land, lying south of a straight line from the Chattahoochee River opposite Eufaula, Alabama, due east and intersecting with the north and south line of lands ceded in 1802 and which was then (1814) the west line of Wayne and Camden Counties, to The Florida line. The General Assembly of Georgia, by an act approved December 21, 1819, provided for the organization of three counties out of this land. (MAP) They were named Early, on the west, Irwin, in the center, and Appling on the east. 

    Map of Georgia with three counties.

    The first order of business in settling South Georgia was the surveying of the total area into “land districts”. The second job that had to be accomplished was surveying these “land districts” into “land lots.” Land lots in Early County contained 250 acres of land while lots in Irwin and Appling contained 490 acres. It was thought that Early County land was more valuable than land in the other two counties.

    A land lottery was held at Milledgeville, Ga. the Georgia State Capitol. In this lottery the names of every eligible citizen was written on a card and placed in a revolving drum. The number of each land lot was placed on a card and placed in another revolving drum. A card was drawn from each drum. This determined the “Fortunate Drawer” who had the right to purchase that particular land lot. A “Fortunate Drawer” had two years to claim and pay the State Treasurer $18 for his/her lot. 

    The General Assembly of Georgia by an act approved December 23, 1822, authorized the opening of a road to commence at the Alapaha River at or near Cunningham Ford, passing through Irwin County and part of Early County to intersect the Florida line near the Ochlocknee River. This road passed through the present counties of Coffee, Irwin, Berrien, Cook, Lowndes, Brooks and Thomas. The road came down through Georgia in a southwesterly direction, through the present town of Cecil in Cook County into the northwest corner of Lowndes County and through the central section of Brooks County and the central and southern section of Thomas County. The Coffee Road was completed in 1824.

    After the legislature approved this road they began a search for a person to carry out the job and they settled on General John Coffee, a man with quite a bit of experience and a man that they thought could supervise the job. He was a well-known military leader and surveyor. He was commissioned to affect the will of the general assembly. General Coffee took the job of building this road for $1,500. In his honor the road became known as “The Coffee Road”. The length of the road was about 150 miles. This amounted to about $10 per mile. In a public at which this history was being given a member of the audience ask the question: “What did the State do with the money left over?”

    General Coffee, a resident of Telfair County began work in 1823 at Swain's Ferry on the Ocmulgee River near Jacksonville, Georgia (Telfair County). Mainly, it was built with slaves and volunteers.Some also suggest that the militia was involved, I find no evidence of this. There was reported to have been about forty slaves that were assigned to this project and Gen. Coffee probably paid their owners for their use.

    (It should be noted here that this is not the General John Coffee who lead a Georgia Division that was involved in “The Battle of the Horse Shoe” on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama. He was most likely that John Coffee’s first Cousin).

    General Coffee faced the problem of crossing streams and creeks at fordable places. No bridges were constructed on the road. Privately owned ferries later developed and provided crossing at those places where the streams and creeks were too deep to ford. It is interesting to note that the road was constructed simply by clearing a path wide enough for two wagons to pass. 

    In the early days ditches were not part of roads.They had no way to dig ditches and maintain them. Ditches became common after the Civil War. Rivers and streams were waded, swam or on horseback. It appears that when Gen. Coffee had a choice of two or more places to cross a river or stream he might have given preference to deep water places over broad, flat, and low places. Ferries required deep water to float them. Broad, low places were almost impossible to cross in real wet weather. 

    My interest in this study is to be sure that this portion of the early history of South Georgia is preserved and accurate. It is not always possible to reconstruct history in such a way that is totally accurate and totally acceptable to all interested parties especially after one hundred and seventy-five years. Therefore, I have made every attempt to get all possible information on this subject. I found, early on, that there were places on this road that route of the road had been changed. 

    Over the last 175 years some sections have been bypassed, other sections have been closed and many sections have been renamed. Often renamed many times. The record of these changes is often missing. There are conflicting theories about the true route of the Coffee Road.It has not been possible, at this time, for me to investigate the total length of the road. I decided to investigate only that portion that lies between the town of Cecil in Cook County through the present counties of Lowndes and Brooks and from there to the Florida line in the present county of Thomas.

    One thing that makes this study difficult is that modern equipment and road paving have changed the character of the road. A section that has been paved and widened does not appear to be an old road. It loses its “Old Road Flavor”. Occasionally, there are areas of the road that are still in the original condition. Present day pressure on county authorities to completely re-work and pave all roads will surely take its toll.

    This Coffee Road route, over which early settlers traveled, has a certain appeal to their descendants. These settlers traveled in wagons, two wheeled carts and walked very long distances, sleeping beneath their vehicle, living off of the land that produced wild berries, poke salad, swamp cabbage, wild persimmon and etc. They also depended on the forest and streams for their meat. Squirrels, rabbits, opossum, turkey, dove, quail, fish, and turtles, were often available. They drove their animals: horses, mules, Oxen, cows, hogs, goats, sheep and chickens. 

    Traveling was very slow. They traveled ten or fifteen miles a day in good weather and over good ground. Other times, they were completely halted for days at a time due to swollen or flooded streams. Severe heat and cold were their enemies and severe illnesses and death would claim their toll. There were no bridges. Streams were forded or swam. They buried their dead beside the road in graves never to be seen again. Death was an accepted danger that was at every turn. They had no mail from home. They had the comfort of their relatives and friends who accompanied them. They learned to work and play together. They remained true to their religious beliefs. 

    There were few opportunities for social events.Funerals and wakes had a certain social value. People would gather for “Log Rollings”, “House Raisings”,“Peanut Shellings”, “Corn Shuckings”, “Candy Pullings” “Camp Meetings” and“Hoe Downs”, and at the end of their journey came the problems of constructing living quarters with crude tools, digging wells, clearing land, planting crops, fighting Indians, bearing children, surviving and burying their dead.

    Bodies were most always buried the day of or the day after death. Embalming was unheard of. In hot weather a person that died late at night or very early in the morning would be buried the same day. Friends and relatives who lived over ten miles away would probably miss the funeral. By the time they received word of the death and then traveled to the home of the dead the funeral would be over.

    One of the main social events was the court sessions. People would travel long distances to attend court. A death sentence and a “hanging” would bring visitors from considerable distances.

    The Coffee road was constructed soon after the first three counties (Early, Irwin and Appling) were organized, and before they were sub-divided. These three original counties didn’t last long. Thomas and Lowndes counties were created in the same legislative Act approved on Dec. 23, 1825 Brooks County was created from Thomas County and Lowndes County on Dec. 11, 1858. Considering that travel was so very slow, the three original counties couldn’t last long. People had to be able to get to their county seat. 

    There were at least eight communities that developed that were important within a few years after the Coffee Road was established and Thomas and Lowndes Counties formed. They were Sharpes Store, Franklinville, Lowndesville and Troupeville in Lowndes County. Sharpes Store may have been the first settlement in Irwin County and most likely the first in all of South Georgia.

    Then there were Grooverville, Boston, Duncanville and Thomasville that were in Thomas County. None of these communities existed with the very unlikely exception of Sharpes Store when the road was constructed. These communities, very early, became important to the settlers when they moved in. 

    Sharpes Store, which became Old Morven then became Morven in 1853, was probably the first local community that developed in South Georgia. One must wonder why Sharpes Store developed and where it was located. The exact location of Sharpe’s Store is the most important piece of evidence in determining the route of the Coffee Road in Brooks and Lowndes Counties.

    MAP Old Morven

    Sharpe’s store probably developed because a settler, Sion Hall had already established his home in the same vicinity. Apparently Sion Hall must have been one of the first settlers in the area. The history surrounding the home of Sion Hall and the location of Sharpe’s Store are the contributing factors that make the exact location of the Coffee Road difficult. It is my belief that this history, though confusing, has the elements to make the exact location possible. I do believe that this history must be used with some “common sense”. In other words one should try to “think” like Gen. Coffee thought.

    In order to study the road in Lowndes and Brooks Counties I went on State Hwy. 122 from Pavo, where I live, to Barney. I then crossed the Folsom Bridge on the Little River and went a very short distance until I came to a road that crossed Hwy. 122 that was named the “Coffee Road.” After many hours and days in this area and after thoroughly searching this area I reached the conclusion that the Coffee Road in this area had some real problems. 

    I went south from Hwy 122 on the “Coffee Road” as labeled. It took me to the Miller Bridge. At the Miller Bridge end of this road there was also a name applied to it. This name also read “Coffee Road”. I went back up the “Coffee Road” and crossed Hwy. 122 and went North on “The Coffee Road” a distance of about .7 mile when I came to the second road on my left which was labeled “The Folsom Road” I turned left on the Folsom Road and found that it intersected Hwy 122 nearer the Folsom Bridge than the “Coffee Road” was. I noticed a road on the other side of Hwy. 122. I crossed Hwy. 122. The road was named “Miller”. To my surprise this road also took me to the Miller Bridge. At the Miller Bridge area the “Miller road” converged with the “Coffee Road.”

    It was getting late I decided to return home to Pavo and come again another day. Low and Behold, when I crossed the Folsom Bridge toward Pavo and traveled about .6 mile I saw another road on my left that apparently headed south that was not named!I knew then and I know now that at that moment in time I had a big problem. Here were three roads that could be the Coffee Road. I followed this road to the vicinity of Morven. It came to a dead-end on Hwy. 76 (the Morven to Barney Hwy). At this dead-end the road that I had been traveling on had a large bronze marker that read: “THE OLD COFFEE ROAD, from the Ocmulgee River through Lax, Nashville, Cecil, Barwick and Thomasville and to the Florida Line.” 

    These markers are scattered all up and down the supposed route of the Coffee Road. I looked across Hwy. 76. I saw a railroad that was parallel to Hwy. 76.I turned left at this dead-end. I went a distance of .1 mile and I saw a road intersecting Hwy. 76 from my right. (In this vicinity I saw the Old Campground and cemetery.)I turned right at this road that was named “Griffin Road” and continued around the northern and western side of Morven until I intersected the “Old Thomasville Road” Which recently has been re-named “Coffee Road”.

    From the small amount of information that I had already obtained I knew that I had just traversed a road that was locally very popularly known as the “original Coffee Road”. I also learned that the Bronze marker that I had encountered on this road was in the vicinity of Sion Hall’s old home place. This marker is in direct conflict with the “Coffee Road” names on the road I had just traveled on the other side of Little River from Hwy. 122 to the Miller Bridge area. One or both of these roads were incorrectly named.

    I had already obtained information about the residence of Sion Hall. It was about 1 & 1/2 miles northeast of Morven on the road with the “Bronze Marker”. Sion hall was supposed to have built his house and a store on the Coffee Road. He is supposed to have sold this store to Hamilton W. Sharpe. I had to convince myself that Sharpes Store was on the Coffee Road. Because the Coffee Road was the way that people were getting into this area it seemed natural to me that any early store or inn that developed early would be developed on the Coffee Road or as near the Coffee Road as possible. 

    The History of Valdosta And Lowndes County by Louis E. Schmer (1988) states that “The first general store in the county was opened on the Coffee Road about 1825 by Sion Hall. Hall’s became Sharpes’s Store about 1828.” I prefer to believe that Sion Hall did not build “Sharpe’s Store.”I believe that Hamilton W. Sharpe built the Store. Sion Hall had been in the area for some time before Sharpe arrived. There are also historical suggestions that indicate that Hall had an Inn. I knew that I had to deal with these issues.

    The first permanent settlers in the area were probably here before the Land Lottery in 1820 and before Georgia opened up this area for settlement. This group was very small. They probably settled on or near streams or rivers that were important for several reasons but foremost because fresh water was available before the settlers had time to dig wells. Rivers and streams were also important for food and transportation. Settlers after the 1820 lottery either became squatters or had purchased or drawn a lot of land in the lottery. Those here before the lottery were most likely squatters.

    It appeared reasonable for me to assume that since this was the first store in the area, Sharpe’s Store would be on the Coffee Road, unless there was some physical problem that kept it from being there.I finally was convinced that Sharpes Store had to be on the Coffee Road, that the people would not have supported this store if it had been off the only road in the area.

    I would like to call the reader’s attention to some excerpts from a very important history of Lowndes County. Pines and Pioneers by Jane Twitty Shelton, Cherokee Publishing Co., 1976 pg. 28, “One man who realized the opportunity opened up by the Coffee Road was Sion Hall. He lived in Irwin County at the time of the 1820 census. (Remember that at that time Irwin County included about one-third of the whole area of South Georgia.)Hall and his sixteen-year-old son Enoch had come into the new region to select a home place on the route. (In this instance if the word route refers to the Coffee Road, there was no Coffee road at the time of the 1820 Census.) They found no whites or Indians, and they rambled around a while looking for a good spot to settle and to build a house and a storeThey determined upon a site, Lot Number 271 in the northeast section of District 12, about two miles north of present Morven in Brooks County.” 

    A short time later“With the lumber dressed by the slaves, he built a home on the west side of the Coffee Road at the edge of a big hammock”.Pg. 29: After Sion Hall “got here, lots of people started coming in, filling it up.”Therefore, he “put in to build a store” in a pine thicket across the road from the house. (Note: This store would have been north of Morven)“Sion and Enoch Hall operated their establishment for several years; they sold out to Hamilton W. Sharpe, who had clerked in the store for a time”. 

    Pg. 82 of Pines and Pioneers: “Sion Hall maintained his popular place of business for several years and sold out to his young clerk, Hamilton W. Sharpe, about 1828. Sharpe ran the store at the crossroads of the Coffee Road and the Franklinville-Thomasville route as the center of all information and news dissemination…” (At this point we should note that “Pines and Pioneers” might have a problem. The Franklinville-Thomasville road intersected at Sharpes Store, which was located about over two miles south west of the home of Sion Hall.) “Within a few years he sold the store back to Sion and Enoch Hall. Enoch and Sion’s brother John continued Halls Store until Enoch sold to his uncle his share in the store, March 31, 1835”…

    See 1840 Map (Sharpes Store)

    Pg. 97 of Pines and Pioneers, “Judge Thaddeus G. Holt presided over one term of superior court at the home of Francis Rountree. For the May term, 1829, court convened in a new log public building at Franklinville…The May term of court in Lowndes ended, judge and members of the bar set out for Thomasville on Saturday. They spent the night at Sharpe’s Store which was fifteen miles from Franklinville and the next morning left for James Lovett’s dinnerhouse, sixteen miles east of the Thomas County seat.” (Note: At this point we should note that Sion Hall was supposed to have had an Inn at which Court personnel spent the night.)

    (Note: This dinner-house was operated by James Lovett and is located at the crossroad of the Salem Church Road and the Coffee Road about two miles west of Barwick. James Lovett married Catherine (Katy) Zitterauer and they are the parents of Rachel Lovett who married James Cone. They are ancestors of a large Cone family in Thomas County. The “Lovett’s Dinnerhouse has been remodeled but still stands.)

    “Since he had reason to attend court, Hamilton W. Sharpe accompanied the jovial group as the men trooped down the road.Paul Coalson was the vanguard; Judge Holt and the solicitor followed. Colonel Lott Warren and General Eli Warren rode horses, and others joined the procession in buggies, gigs, and sulkies. 

    Suddenly a black fox squirrel ran across the road and scampered up a forty-foot lightwood stump. To a man the party dismounted, leaving the reins of the horses to dangle. They tried to knock down the chattering animal with pinecones and lightwood knots. The squirrel jumped; General Warren caught it. Sullivan came to help, and the squirrel bit him. Everyone yelled, “Hold Him! Hold him!” Then the horses panicked and bolted, smashing the buggies against the trees. In the middle of the road the court stood without horses and without squirrel, for in the melee the squirrel got away. 

    Sharpe, who had held on to his mount, went ahead to locate the horses. Picking up their books and satchels, the men made their way to Lovetts’s where they found some of the animals and their broken vehicles. Subsequently, Lovett hitched up his mules to the plantation wagon and delivered the corps of lawyers in Thomasville after nightfall.

    This is very compelling evidence. This evidence is in direct conflict with information given above that one of the very first courts spent the night at Share’s Store and had a bout with a squirrel the next day. Why would they spend the night in a store when Sion Hall had an Inn in the same area?

    Remember: One theory was that the Coffee road came south from Jacksonville, into Lowndes County to the present State Hwy. 122, Turned right on State Hwy. 122, and crossed Little River at the present site of the Folsom Bridge. It proceeded about one mile west and took a sharp turn southward toward the present town of Morven. About one and a half miles north of the present town of Morven it went directly by the homesite of Sion Hall. Thence it took a Westerly route around Morven and intersected the Thomasville road that goes to Thomasville. 

    (Note: Sharpe’s Store is shown on the 1840 Map of Lowndes and Thomas Counties. On the same map the Thomasville road is shown as going by Sharpes Store and thence directly to the Little River to a point I believe was Millers Bridge. 

    From “The History Of Brooks County by Huxford” pg. 387, we find: “…it was in 1826-27 that Hamilton W. Sharpe came from Tatnall County and built a little log store on the Coffee Road near the residence and inn of Sion Hall, a mile or so north eastwardly from present Morven. (Note: Sion Hall is supposed to have built and operated this store for several years and then sold it to Hamilton W. Sharpe who had clerked there for a time. This is another point of conflict). Note: This maintains that Sharpes store was North of Morven.

    It is my contention that Sharpes Store was not north of Morven. It is my contention that The Coffee Road went directly by Sharpe’s Store that was located at what became known as “Old Morven”. If the reader would view “Old Morven” on the 1908 Thomas County map it would appear as a small dot in the southeastern area of Morven.It was directly on the road from the Miller Bridge over the Little River and directly on the Thomasville road.(Note: Anyone trying to follow the Old Thomasville Road to Old Morven would be a little confused. A section of “This Old Thomasville Road” has been closed and re-routed within the City limits of Morven).

(See Old Morven Map)

    When Franklinville became the first County Seat of Lowndes County The Coffee Road was extended (After the road from Sharpe’s Store crossed Little River at Miller Bridge) and continued directly to Franklinville. The Franklinville road joined the Coffee Road just east of the Miller Bridge. When the County seat of Lowndes was shifted to Troupville a road was constructed that permitted travelers to reach the Coffee road at a point just east of the Miller Bridge. Later when a road was built from Thomasville to Troupville and a bridge was constructed on this road at Troupville a connecting road was built from Troupville to Sharpe’s Store. 

    The above paragraph is written indicating that I have accepted that the Miller Bridge was on the Coffee Road, and as a matter fact that indication is true. I will produce as much evidence as I can find supporting all theories of the Coffee Road that I can find. I must admit that things are beginning to point toward the Miller Bridge route. But there is more.

    (Note: The Old Thomasville road mentioned above was the Coffee Road There is no debate about this. The debate is whether the Thomasville went around Morven and to the site of Sion Halls Home and to that Bronze marker near Sion Hall’s old home place. 

    That the Coffee road went to Sharpe’s store is not debatable. The location of Sharpe’s is the only issue to be resolved. The Franklinville Road is not the issue. Everyone accepts the fact that the Franklinville Road most likely went to Sharpe’s Store. It went from Sharpe’s Store easterly through the southern part of the present town of Hahira and then southeasterly to the first Lowndes County Site of Franklinville. (Franklinville was about 15 miles from Sharpe’s Store). The debate may be stated simply “Where was Sharpes Store?” 

    The road exiting Morven eastward to the Miller Bridge is now the Morven Road. So Named because it is the road from Hahira to Morven. The Franklinville Road followed the same route. There is a monument at the site of Franklinville and nothing else. 

    Here is a very interesting record: Page 30 of Pines and Pioneers: “About 1823, John Bryan home-steaded upon land in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule creeks, and Washington Joyce farmed east of the Little River where he put into operation a ferry at Miller’s Bridge.” If there was a need for a ferry in 1823 at the Miller Bridge Site then this was positive evidence that this site was on the Coffee Road. In 1823 the Coffee road was not completed to the Florida Line. There would be no other road to this site; there would be no need for a Ferry since there would have been no road there. 

    Mail Routes and Maps

    Just east of Miller Bridge another road intersected the Coffee road at the same place the Franklinville road had intersected and went south to Troupville after the County seat of Lowndes County was shifted to Troupville. I have done no research on this road but I think it may be called the “Valdosta Road.”

    My opinion is that when Gen. Coffee arrived in this area his scouts considered crossing Little River at the Folsom Bridge. Indications are that when General Coffee approached the Folsom bridge area that he turned toward the river at what is now the second Folsom Road going north from Hwy. 122. He moved toward the river. He sent his Surveyors out to find the most accessible point on the river to cross. At the Folsom Bridge area the low land is about one mile wide. He considered this crossing but rejected it. His surveyors went on down the river until they reached a point that they thought was better to cross. This point was at the Miller Bridge site. 

    When he traveled down the river I do not believe he was on the present Coffee Road.I believe he crossed Hwy. 122 where the Folsom Road and the Miller Bridge road meet on Hwy. 122 just eastwardfrom Folsom Bridge.He continued south on what is now named “Miller Road” and he crossed the river where Miller Bridge is now located on the “now named” Morven Road. 

    He proceeded toward what is now Thomas County. We can be reasonably sure of one thing; Thomasville and Franklinville were both on the same road. The Courts in Lowndes County and Thomas County were on the same circuit. Superior Court Circuit Judges, Lawyers, Court officials and others that followed the court had to follow the Then Franklinville Road and the Coffee Road between these two towns. If the Folsom Bridge was the crossing then they by-passed the oldest business structure in South Georgia, Sharpes Store (Morven).Franklinville did not remain the County Site for very long. 

    The first court to be held at Franklinville was in the fall of 1829. According to Hamilton Sharpe who wrote some of his recollections of the history of Lowndes County in 1844 and published them in “The Valdosta Times:”

    “There began to be a good deal of complaint about the location of the County Site, and as a result an Act of the Legislature in 1833 fixed the County Site at a point to be called “Lowndesville” to be located on lot of land No. 109 in the 12th. District of present Lowndes County.” (Lowndesville was never really used as a county seat.)

    “In 1836, the Inferior Court decided to move the County Site to a new location and so they made a choice of a site located between the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers. Just above their confluence, and there a town-site was laid out; the land was bought by the county and the Inferior Court proceeded to lay it out into town lots and the town was named Troupville. The first town lots were sold in the fall of 1836.”

    My purpose in this study was to lay out all the evidence as to the original route of the Coffee Road. The Morven area was difficult. I know that my theory about this road will be a subject that will receive criticism. I would like for all who are interested in this area to go, as I did, to the beginning of the second Folsom Road North of Hwy’ 122 and travel it to its end. Also Travel the Coffee road from its intersection of Hwy. 122 south to the Miller bridge area. 

    It would not be fair to compare these two roads. The Coffee road, if it was an old road, has been improved to the point where it has lost all of its “Old Road Flavor”. But reason with me for a moment as you ride down the Coffee Road. If the Miller Road was not the Coffee Road why was it built. Why was it named Miller Road? Was it so named to direct traffic to the Miller Bridge? It’s very old. It has the “Old Road Flavor”. It paralleled the presently marked Coffee Road. It has never been heavily populated. The two roads come together on the south end. Roads were difficult to build in old days. Open your mind and give this Beautiful Old Road a chance.

    Unfortunately, The Lowndes County Commissioners are going to have great pressure to make this road look like the Coffee Road that it parallels. Wouldn’t it be great if roads like this could just be paved without destroying ditches and trees? 

    This is all I have to report about this area. If you, my reader, has something to add, whether it supports my theory or not, I would sure like to have it. I am going to preserve this road with photographs and GPS points to give an insight into its beauty. 

    Lets now proceed west from Miller Bridge. This road (Morven Road) leads you directly to Morven. On the southeast side of Morven you intersect Hwy. 133 (The Moultrie to Valdosta Hwy. This intersection is just a very short distance beyond where Sharpe’s store and later “Old Morven” were located. You have Just passed the Sharpe’s store location.

    Proceed on the Morven Road past Hwy. 133. You come to a dead-end at Hwy. 76. The Morven To Quitman Hwy. Turn left and proceed a short distance until you see a small City Park on your right at this point there is an intersecting road to the right which is named “Coffee Road”. This Coffee Road dead-ends at this junction. Between this intersection and the Morven-Valdosta Hwy. 133 intersection, a portion of the “Old Coffee road has been closed and re-routed. 

    Get on the Coffee Road at this intersection and proceed westward. You will pass a New Elementary School on your right. Next you will intersect the Jackson Road. This Jackson crosses the Coffee Road at this point. (Note: We first saw the Jackson road near The Coffee Road Bronze Marker near the Old Campground. The Jackson Road is claimed to be a part of the Coffee Road by those who maintain that the Coffee Road crossed the river at Folsom Bridge. 

    Continue westward on the “Coffee Road”. Your next important point on this road is the Quitman to Moultrie Hwy. 333. I believe this intersection is locally known as “Pebble Hill”. You must turn left at “Pebble Hill” to remain on the “Old Coffee Road”. If you go straight at this junction you will be on a new “Coffee Road”. Turn left and proceed about two miles. You will see a pond on your left; just beyond is an old road that intersects from your left. The Old Coffee Road intersected from your right at this juncture. This is where the Coffee turned to cross Okapilco creek and Mule creek. You can go no farther. The road is closed. All evidence of a road that would lead to Okapilco Baptist Church is gone.

    The area that we are headed for was where a church and community developed and it is called“Okapilco”.Okapilco Baptist Church was organized on Feb. 21, 1861. This church was an important church in that it represented an early place of worship for the early settlers in that area. 

    The Coffee Road approached the church from the east. It passed over the intersection of Mule Creek and the Okapilco Creek, past the church in a westerly direction.The Brooks County inferior court, May 5, 1869 received a petition to have the Coffee road straightened beginning at Harmony Church on the old Coffee Road, crossing Mule Creek at Captain James R. Robinson’s and Okapilco Creek at the bridge on said creek known as Herring’s Bridge and intersecting the Old Coffee road at or near Mr. Sim. Phillips. 

    The group that presented this Petition was composed of B. Herring, W. W. Beaty, E. Wade, John Delk, G.B. Williams, L.M. weeks, D.F. Chapman, J.S. Fletcher, D.F. Robinson, Capt. Jas. Robinson, J.M. Burgess, W.W. Joyce, Angus Morrison, Harvey Drigger, Bowlin Hall, John Duckworth, R. Scruggs, R.M. Hitch, and Clinton Sneed. 

    As a result of this petition the Coffee Road was re-routed beginning at Harmony Church and proceeding easterly. As result of this people began to call this new route the Coffee Road. It would be interesting if the Present County Commissioners would name this road the “New Coffee Road” and rename the Coffee road the Old Coffee Road.

    Why didn’t John Coffee follow this route when he developed the Coffee Road? There is no sure answer. I can’t compare the “New Coffee Road” with the route of the old Coffee Road because I can’t follow the Old Coffee Road over these creeks. The area is inaccessible. An old resident of this area informed me that there were wood posts across Okapilco creek that were left when a bridge that had been built on the Old Coffee Road there decayed.

    We do know that where the New Coffee road passed over these creeks there are now four bridges in rapid succession. This wet area may have made it undesirable for Mr. Coffee to use this as his route.The only sure thing is Mr. Coffee did reject this crossing area. He probably sent scouts down the river to select a more suitable crossing.He knew that people had to have an area where either a ferry or a ford could provide a way to cross. 

    There is no debate about what John Coffee did in this area. We can only speculate why he did what he did.

    Now the present markers of the Coffee Road do not show the true route of the Coffee Road west of the Okapilco Church.Even though we accept that as the route by Okapilco Church we must still get to the Barwick area. But before we leave we should know that at one time there was a Stage Coach Inn located on the Coffee Road just east of the church. 

    Let’s head west from the front of Okapilco Baptist Church. We proceed in this westerly direction until we reach an intersection with another road. We stop before we turn and look straight ahead through woods and pasture. When I first visited this area I could see where the road went by a difference in the tree levels. That is no longer possible. 

    Now turn left and proceed. We are now not on the Old Coffee Road. In a very short distance we reach the Barwick-Quitman road. We continue across this road for about 200 yards when we reach an intersection. We turn right at this intersection and proceed. The road that we imagined when we made a stop and looked forward intersects about 1/2 mile down this road. We are now back on the Old Coffee Road. We proceed and after several miles we intersect a paved road about 200 yards from Harmony Church. This intersection is where the New Coffee Road that was opened by the inferior court ends. 

    We are still on the Old Coffee Road. We pass Harmony Baptist and proceed toward Barwick. Barwick is only a short distance. Just before we enter the city limits there is a fork in the road the left Fork is the Old Coffee Road. This takes us through a residential section and we continue on through Barwick. After about 2 miles we cross the Salem Church Road. This is where Lovett’s Dinner house is located. It has been remodeled. We proceed another couple of miles and arrive at “Five Forks”.At this intersection we take the second road on our left, the “Eason Crossing Road”. The Eason Crossing road is The Old Coffee Road. The road we turned off of goes to Thomasville and is named The Coffee Road 

    One of the first things that I attempted to do when I became interested in the “Coffee Road” was to determine if this road actually went to Thomasville.The markers on the side of the road indicate the road went into Thomasville. There is a marker in Downtown Thomasville, a bronze marker, which is on what is claimed to be the Old Coffee Road. It is located on Remington Ave. 

    Keep in mind that the establishment of Thomas County was authorized Dec.23, 1825, three years after the Coffee Road was authorized and one year after it was completed. On Dec.22, 1826, an act of the legislature declared “the courthouse and jail of said County of Thomas is hereby made permanent at a place now known and called by the name of Thomasville”. (Acts 1826, 173) 

    There are many who claim that the Coffee Road “went” to Thomasville. When the Coffee Road was completed there was no Thomasville. There was no Thomas County. Those who prefer to believe that the Coffee Road extended into the center of Thomasville should say that Thomasville was established on the Coffee Road. They also bear the burden of locating its route to the Florida line. No one, as yet, have suggested such a route.

    There are no markers after you leave Thomasville indicating how it got to the Florida line.I began to seek information about this road from two or three different sources.One of my sources was Tom Hill who is the curator of the museum in Thomas County and is knowledgeable in historical facts about the County.I went to see Tom and I asked him if he knew where the Coffee Road ran or how it got to Thomasville.He said that he knew how it got to Thomasville and he could show me where it entered Thomasville.I then asked him if he could also show me where it left Thomasville and how it got to the Florida line.He said, “no, I don’t know that and I don’t think anyone else does”.

    I have been unable to find any information at all as to how this road got from Thomasville to the Florida line.On a 1908 map of Thomas County that I purchased from the Georgia Department of Archives and History there is a hand written note on a road labeled “Thomasville - Quincy Road.” I believe that this road is the present Hwy 319 that now goes to Tallahassee Fla. The note is difficult to read but the words “Old Coffee road” are readable. This is the only evidence I have seen of any road from Thomasville being called the Coffee Road. 

    I explored the possibility that Thomasville was built on the Coffee Road, that the reason Thomasville is where it is because of the Coffee Road.But as I researched the development and the placement of Thomasville I could find no indication that the Coffee Road had anything to do with the location of the city. The citizens who were charged with the responsibility of locating the county site left no evidence that the Coffee Road was a factor. 

    One of the best places to get information about early roads is the Inferior Court records.The Inferior court was eliminated very soon after the Civil war. But for roads before the Civil War they are an excellent source. There were references to The Tallahassee Road in these records. I had also found that on my 1908 map the road from Five Forks to the Florida line southwest of Metcalf was named the Old Tallahassee Road.

    I also found references of a New Tallahassee Road in court records. This road was the road that went south from Thomasville by Springhill Church and to the Florida Line. On my 1908 map this road to Springhill church from Thomasville is named the “Springhill Road”.From the Springhill Church it is shown with an arrow “To Tallahassee.”The third road I found that appeared in the Court records was the present Tallahassee Road but it included “Sussina.”, and also the Meridian road was inferred in these records.Of course we all are aware of the present Tallahassee Road. It appeared that there had been four different ways to go to Tallahassee during earlier times. The Coffee was not referenced in any of the records that I have studied as having any connection with Thomasville. 

    Very early in the history of the area, it seems that a road from Thomasville to Troupville became a reality. The route of this road followed the present Coffee Road from Thomasville to the first road beyond the Golf Course and went to the right. This road crossed the Tallahassee Road from five forks. There was also a stagecoach inn at this location. The road to Troupville went to where Ozell is now located. From there it went southeasterly through what, many years later, became Quitman. Quitman was located after the Railroad was completed between Savannah and Thomasville. Its location was where the Thomasville to Troupville road and the railroad both went through the city.

    So I began to look for other alternatives and I discovered something sort of unusual.There seems to be no question that the Coffee Road went through Barwick. About 4 miles west of Barwick is a crossroads called Five Forks.I began to study the roads that intersected at Five Forks and I noticed that there was a road, it is still unpaved, that goes from Five Forks in a southwesterly direction.It passes south of Metcalf and intersects the Florida line at the point where the old Magnolia Road from Thomasville intersects the Florida line. The Old Magnolia goes from Thomasville to Magnolia, Fl. Magnolia Fl. was a seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. I began to follow up and study this until I became firmly convinced that this was the route that General Coffee followed when he built the road. 

    To have gone through the area that later became Thomasville would have added several miles to the length of the road. This just does not make good business.

    The generally accepted route of the Coffee Road is the Barwick to Thomasville road.It is shown as the Old Coffee Road on the 1908 map. This map is the first government produced road map that I have found for the counties in Georgia that was designed to show all Roads, Communities, Land Districts and Land Lots.

    For the reasons shown I have rejected the contention that the Coffee road went to Thomasville.

    Let us return to Five Forks and start south on the Eason Crossing Road (Which is the same as the Tallahassee Road as shown on the 1908 Thomas County Map. This road is unpaved from Five Forks to the Florida Line. As we head south at Five Forks we are on the Eason Crossing Road. 

    After a couple of miles we cross the Old Thomasville Troupville Road. At this intersection there was once a stagecoach inn located. After a couple of more miles we are at Eason Crossing. The east-west road at this crossing is Hwy. 84 From Thomasville to Boston. At this crossing if we look up the hill to our left we can see some very large oak trees. These trees mark the site of Old Boston. Old Boston was moved to Boston after the Savannah-Thomasville railroad was completed.

    Let us now proceed south. A very short distance brings us to The Valdosta Railroad. We cross it. We then cross Aucilla Creek. Immediately we are at my G.G.Grandfather’s (Joseph Cone) old home site. On my left in a wooded area near the top of a hill is the Cone Cemetery. It was abandoned and lost for several years. 

    We proceed and immediately across the Lower Boston Road. Soon we arrive at the Thomasville-Monticello U.S. Hwy19. From Eason Crossing to this Hwy. is the New Hope Rd.We cross Hwy. 19 and proceed Southwest. And very soon arrive at Mitchell pond.

    At Mitchell the road you are now on goes toward Metcalf. The Coffee Road at this point has been closed. The easiest way to locate the Coffee Road is to go to Metcalf. Go straight through Metcalf and near the Florida line at this point we see a road that was once a crossroad. The road to the right may be closed or it may appear to be closed. The road to the left is open. The road to the right goes about two miles and turns and goes to the Florida Line. Just as it makes this turn it is intersected by the Old Magnolia Road from Thomasville to Magnolia, New Port, St. Marks and Port Leon. Magnolia and Port Leon no longer exist. 

    Remember that the road to the right might or might not be closed. Turn left this is the Old Coffee road. Proceed until you cross the old Metcalf-Monticello railroad. You will come to a dead-end. You are looking ahead at this dead end you can see two rows of trees. At one time this road went between these trees. The Coffee Road reappears at the Mitchell Pond.

    That’s the story as I see it. It is now someone who else that has the burden of refuting these findings. It is my desire to complete this story from Cecil in Cook County to the Jacksonville, Ga. area. 

    I welcome any criticism any one wishes to make. My desire is that the “true route” of the Coffee Road be located and protected. In a recent passage of a sales tax to improve roads in Thomas County I detected what may be a portion of this road from Eason Crossing South to or beyond the bridge over the Aucilla Creek. The County Commissioners had already reworked this section and it had completely lost the “Old Road Flavor”. Everyone is probably aware that Mrs. Marguerite Williams protected the roads in south Thomas County with as much “Vim, vigor and vitality” as she possessed. She was especially interested in Canopy roads as well as old roads. We should be forever grateful to her for her efforts.

    If old roads and canopy roads are not protected the beauty of their “Old Road Flavor” will be lost. Some things can be done. One is to mark important points with a GPS. In some counties the governing bodies are re-mapping their complete counties using the “GPS signal system”. Glynn County is a good example. They testify to the value of their maps. They believe that it saves them money and improves their efforts to provide services to their people. Think what it would mean if emergency personnel had a reading to your home along with a GPS.It is my intention to do some of this on the old roads that I am familiar with. These readings will be made available to anyone and everyone. Another is to Photograph certain of the beautiful areas and locate the photographs with GPS readings. I am not a photographer. I cannot do this job. I can only locate some spots that should be photographed.

    It is very important that these findings be challenged. In areas where these findings are proven to be accurate efforts should be made to have our governing bodies change road names and other identifying information back to the original. For example: The Troupville road from the intersection of the Coffee Road north of the Golf Course to Ozelle could be changed. Almost any old road name could be reverted to the original. Historical Societies have done this with homes and other structures why not with roads.

    The people of Florida should receive our praise for their handling of the Old Railroad from near Tallahassee to St. Marks. This railroad just may be among the first three railroads built in America. It was probably originally pulled by horses or Oxen. It is now a bicycle and walking trail. Its history is fascinating. I made an effort a few years ago to determine how and when the Old Coffee road was closed south of Metcalf. I wrote a letter to our county commissioners attempting to get information. I volunteered to appear before them to discuss this matter. No answer. Maybe we could have some walking and bicycle trails. If we ever get “one”, provisions should be made for the “Old” and handicapped. They would enjoy it most. 

    We expend a vast amount of energy and money in locating old homes and other old structures for posterity. Why are there not more people like Mrs. Williams?