Early History of Lowndes County and Valdosta , Georgia
The Seminole and
Creek Indians were the first settlers in what would later become Lowndes
County. The county's first "visitors" were Hernando de Soto and his band of
explorers, who passed through the area in 1540. In 1821, Lowndes County was
created by dividing Irwin County into two parts. A state land lottery in
1820 opened the area for settlers, and five years later, on December 23,
1825, Lowndes County was officially created by legislative act.
First Settlers - Creation of Lowndes County
In 1821 four settlers moved to that section of Georgia which is now known as
Lowndes County. Sections to the north had been settled and several counties
had been laid off. The country into which these four settlers moved their
families was a wilderness and Indians were numerous.
The first settlers found a region of gently rolling uplands with extensive
forests of pine and oak, flatwoods of longleaf pine and wire grass, and an
undulating southern section dotted with lakes and lime sinks. The fine sandy
loam of the northern part promised good crops, and a soil recognized as
productive for farming and stock raising stretched from the Withlacoochee
along the south side of Cherry Creek to Skipper Bridge and beyond to Cat
Creek. The newcomers marveled at the expanse of yellow pine.
The first settlers were James Rountree,
Lawrence Folsom, Drew Vickers and
Alfred Belote. They each brought their families and made the journey in
covered wagons. Each man selected his lot of land and proceeded to erect
modest homes. Lawrence Folsom and Drew Vickers located in the northern
section of the county. They chose the high ground which was good for general
farming and excellent for raising stock.
The Coffee Road was the first major thoroughfare for settlers into south
Georgia. Commissioned by the state in 1822, General John Coffee and the
militia cut the road from Jacksonville in Telfair County to Duncansville in
Thomas County. 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.
Hall and his sixteen-year-old son Enoch had come into the new region to
select a homeplace on the route. They "rambled around a while looking for a
good spot to settle to build a house and a store," eventually deciding upon
a site, Lot No. 271 in the northeast section of District 12, about two miles
north of present Morven in Brooks County. Sion Hall brought in a sawmill
that he had, along with a "good many" slaves and his horses, and cleared the
land and with the dressed lumber build a home on the west side of the Coffee
Road. He then brought in his family and household goods. After other
settlers began to arrive, Sion Hall build a store in a pine thicket across
the road from his house thus establishing the first commercial enterprise in
the county, and he provided for the needs of newcomers and travelers. The
first session of court in Lowndes County was held at the home of Sion Hall,
where the judge, jurors and the spectators sat upon logs arranged in the
yard. Hamilton W. Sharpe, who clerked in Sion Hall's store for several
years, eventually purchased Mr. Hall's interest in the store. Hamilton W.
Sharpe was very active in establishing the first post office in Lowndes
County in 1827 and became the first post master. The post office was known
as Sharpe's Store.
Soon after the opening of the Coffee Road, other settlers rapidly moved into
the area. This section of Georgia was very fertile, as it is now, and it was
easy to make a prosperous home in the new and undeveloped land. In the space
of three or four years the country had become thickly settled. About 1823
John Bryan homesteaded 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.
In 1825 it was decided to petition the legislature to create a new county.
The name selected for the new county was Lowndes, and at the meeting of the
General Assembly that year the act creating Lowndes County was passed.
In deciding upon a name for their county, these early settlers went outside
of their own State and elected to choose Lowndes, in honor of
Lowndes, one of the distinguished sons of South Carolina. William Jones
Lowndes was the son of Rawlings Lowndes, who was a leader in the affairs of
South Carolina during and after the Revolutionary War. The man for whom
Lowndes County was named was noted as a learned scholar and for his mildness
of disposition. He was not vigorous in health and was forced to decline the
honor of having his name placed before the people as a candidate for the
presidency of the United States at the time of the election of James Monroe
for the second term.
Lowndes County was created by cutting Irwin County into two parts. The
northern portion remained Irwin, while most of the southern portion was
called Lowndes. The new county, when originally marked out, was sixty-two
miles from north to south and forty miles from east to west. It contained
2,080 square miles. It was bounded on the north by Irwin County, on the east
by Ware County, on the south by the State of Florida, and on the west by
Settlers continued to move into the newly formed Lowndes County. Many came
from South Carolina; for example, the Howells loaded their household goods
in wagons, gathered together their children and their children's children,
their slaves, and their stock, left the Carolina Barnwell District, and
located in the southeast section of the county around Howell. Jesse Carter
settled on Lot No. 375. District 11, to the east; James McMullen on Lot No.
142, District 15, in the southwest; and Thomas M. Dees in Lots No. 26 and
27, District 11, near Mud Swamp. A. B. Shehee and Samuel Swilley lived in
the Mud Swamp area which also proved to be good farm land. Samuel Swilley
had a substantial log house on the edge of the woods and log cabins for his
slaves in the midst of his corn field. He possessed a pond with a mill whose
water power he used to grind corn, to saw logs and to gin cotton.
James Edmondson was born in Warren County, Georgia, and grew up in Bulloch
County. During the winter of 1827-1828 he came to Lowndes with his wife and
two children, living first on Lot No. 362, District. He later moved to a new
homeplace about four miles east of Hahira.