At the time that
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
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
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
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
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
The History of Valdosta And
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
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 store. They
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
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).
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
(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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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?