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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Central of Georgia Railroad goes to sea
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of columns about early shipping in Georgia and Bulloch County.

The "History of Savannah" (1890) stated that the Central of Georgia Railroad bought a large number of shares of the New York and Savannah Steam Navigation Company (or Mitchell Line).

In 1859, R.R. Cuyler, president of the Central, bought the Mitchell Line outright. After investing heavily in William Garrison's Empire Steamship Line, in 1872, the Central bought it, too, and named it the Empire Line of Savannah.

When the Central created the Ocean Steamship Company (or Savannah Line) in 1874, it consisted of ships acquired from several lines. These included the Augusta (renamed the Magnolia) of the Mitchell, the Empire's San Jacinto and San Salvador, and the Atlantic Mail steamships Herman Livingston, General Barnes and the Rapidan.

In 1877, the Ocean Steamship Company placed an order with the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding and Engine Works for two new steamships: the City of Macon and the City of Savannah. Somewhat curiously, the company offered its two smallest steamships, the Rapidan and the Magnolia, as partial payment for the new ships.

When the 272-foot-long City of Macon entered the Port of Savannah, it was the largest vessel ever to have entered the harbor. The Ocean Steamship Company's remaining four side-wheel steamers were all shorter in length.

The Central then formed another separate line, the New England and Savannah Steamship Company, to carry passengers from Savannah to Boston on the City of Macon and the Gate City.

The Ocean Steamship Company also acquired the single-screw steamship the Juniata. It was assigned to the new Philadelphia and Savannah run in 1881.

Now known as the Savannah Line, contracts were let with the Delaware shipbuilding company for two more steamships, the 254-foot-long City of Columbus and the City of Atlanta.

The City of Atlanta was named instead the Gate City, and the Delaware shipbuilding company accepted the Savannah Line's three Atlantic Mail steamships as partial payment.

Passenger fares in 1890 for the trip from Savannah to New York were as follows: For first class, $20 bought a stateroom and meals one way (or $30 round trip), second class was $15 one way, and steerage was $10 one way.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at



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