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Bulloch History

When automobiles first showed up in Statesboro

On October 1, 1905, Statesboro resident L.F. Davis drove his new car from Savannah into Bulloch County. Unfortunately for him, some 10 miles out of Savannah, the auto began acting up, and before he knew it, it was dead. Stranded in Arcola, he ended getting a tow into town behind a mule, which was not at all the way he had expected to make his glorious entrance into the Boro with the very first of these new-fangled vehicles to make it that far west of Savannah.
Therefore, when Perry Averitt drove into town on December 5, 1905 in his used 10 horsepower (HP) Ford, Editor D.B. Turner of the Bulloch Times reported this as the first such event in the town’s history. Averitt concurred that his vehicle was the first in town, as it was actually working when it arrived. His car was quite a sight: he had 30 inch tall tires that were 3  inches wide, and his car's top speed was all of 25 mph. He also stated that he had been advised to go no faster than 15 mph as he had no windshield and rocks kicked up would hurt quite a lot even at that speed. Averitt also reported that he had paid $600 for his buggy.
The arrival of these vehicles was soon followed by more: Judge S. L. Moore bought a new 22 HP Reo, R. Simmons bought a 30 HP Cadillac, and W.H. Blitch bought a 30 HP Buick. Perry Averitt actually established what is said to have been the first auto dealership in Bulloch County shortly thereafter.
By 1906, some 200 Bulloch County residents had become so upset by these bothersome creatures that a petition was circulated asking for the City Council to ban all “Autoists” from entering town between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. City fathers J.A. and J.F.  Brannen, along with G.S. Johnston, were appointed to a citizens committee to draw up some “rules of the road” for this new mode of transportation.
In 1910, there were several laws passed for these new autos: after attempting to get a 1-mile per hour speed limit passed (which the Autoists stated was too slow for their cars), the citizens were forced into a compromise of 6 mph in the business area and 15 mph throughout the rest of town.
In order to encourage compliance, there were fines for those who ignored the new limits: depending on their speed, a fine of $5-25 was assessed, and between 3 and 15 days of hard labor was often also required.
Dr. J.E. Donehoo set something of a record when his party left Savannah in his new car just as the Savannah and Statesboro Railroad train was leaving the depot. They arrived in Statesboro some three and one-half hours later just as the train was pulling into the depot. This now meant that what had been a two-day trip by wagon could be made in a half a day.
In 1909, the Georgia Legislature attempted to pass a new “Auto Tax”, which would cost a car owner between $3 and $10 per year for their tax. It failed by one vote. When they finally passed a vehicle tax (the newly-created ad valorem tax) it had to be paid yearly. The car's license, however, was good for the entire life of the car. In order to appear fair, it also applied to other forms of transportation: one horse wagons were assessed $5, two horse wagons were assessed $15, and oxcarts were assessed $2.50.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger dodger53@hotmail.com

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