Note: The following is part of a series of columns looking at the founding and general history of southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
The first real town in Bulloch County, Excelsior, was located 16 miles from Statesboro near the Canoochee River by the mouth of Ten Mile Creek. As it sat alongside “Little Creek,” that became its first name. By the time there were some 100 residents, they had named the community “Red Branch” after local resident Jimerson (or Jimmerson or even Jimps) Kennedy suggested the town needed a colorful name.
Kennedy and his two sons-in-law, W.W. Olliff and Remer Franklin, along with Dr. Jeff Williams and his son-in-law John G. Jones had begun promoting the building of a school to teach the area's children.
When their new “academy” was established in Red Branch, Ida Middleton convinced local residents to rename the town Excelsior after H.W. Longfellow’s poem of that name in 1879.
The Rev. Washington L. Geiger became the first school superintendent of the new Excelsior Academy.
Geiger had already started Bulloch County’s first newspaper in 1877, the “Excelsior News,” after Jimps Kennedy purchased a printing press for him.
Kennedy became the first postmaster, and Excelsior’s post office was established in 1874 in his house. Kennedy and his friends then organized Excelsior Lodge (No. 92) of the Free and Accepted Masons, which met on the second floor of the Excelsior Missionary Baptist Church.
A second newspaper, “The Bulloch Banner,” was started by none other than Excelsior High School Superintendent F.J. Ingraham. In no time at all, numerous general stores popped up throughout the area: Anderson and Elbert Bird each had one, as did Eason and Company, Everett Jones, W.W. Olliff and Jefferson Parrish.
Mail service was established to Excelsior three times a week, but was soon increased to five days a week on the Statesboro to Kellar (or Keller) route.
In 1886, The New York Times published an article entitled “Big Families in Bulloch County, GA,” which listed 37 families in Bulloch County that had more than 10 children, several of which lived in the Excelsior area.
The two largest families were those of Jack Rushing with 22 children and M.C. Perkins with 20 children. The population in 1900 was 150. Candler County was created in 1914, with Excelsior being placed inside its boundaries.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.