Note: The following is first part of a series of columns looking at the importance of railroads in and around Bulloch County.
In the 1880s, there were small family-run logging businesses all throughout Bulloch County. The lumber harvesters used “trams,” essentially large flatbed vehicles, to transport the fallen logs out the woods.
While at first these vehicles were pulled by horses, mules and even teams of oxen, they eventually were pulled by little mini railroad engines on their own railroad tracks.
The first of these trams were started by the Foy family: John E., John F. and Edward E. Foy. The main investors in this venture were the Brinson, Calhoun, Olliff and Shearhouse families, and the actual operation of these two tram railroads was overseen by brothers Lott and Bill Cowart.
The first line carried lumber from the woods of the Laston region to lumber mills in and around Portal, (one of which was the Lanier Mill).
Foy's railroad left Portal, crossing the Ogeechee River, ending up at the Central of Georgia Railroad depot at Rocky Ford in Screven County.
Around this time, Bulloch County resident George Heard sold his sawmill in Bulloch County and both of the bridges he had built across the Ogeechee River to E.E. Foy.
Foy's mills in Rocky Ford sawed and planed lumber and made sashes, doors, lathes and shingles. The Foy Lumber Company then created the Foy Manufacturing Company.
This company sold “ready-cut homes” assembled at his mills. These "packaged" houses were shipped all around the region, where they were assembled on site by Foy's crews which traveled with them.
The second line went from the woods of east of Statesboro across the Ogeechee River to the town of Egypt in Effingham County. E.E. Foy built a toll bridge across the Ogeechee River to Egypt in 1878.
Charlie Wolfe operated the bridge until it was destroyed by a flood in 1881. It was not rebuilt. According to newspaper reports, Foy's planing and saw mills in Egypt could cut 60,000 board feet of lumber per day.
By 1899, Foy's operations in the Egypt had replaced those in the Rocky Ford area. In 1909, the Foy Lumber and Manufacturing Companies, along with the Foy Railroad, were sold. The track and rolling stock was purchased by the Savannah Valley Railroad (owned by George Brinson).
The majority of Foy's land holdings and lumber and saw mill operations were sold to the East Georgia Saw Mill Company.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at email@example.com.