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From 1742 onward — History, meanings of 'Ogeechee'
Bulloch History
ogeechee river

Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.


  The name "Ogeechee" means many different things to many different people. On July 15, 1742, British explorer Joseph Avery wrote the Board of Trustees for the colony of Georgia.

Avery informed them that he had just “discovered a large river called the Great Ogeechee” He urged that they build “a Dock Yard and Settlements upon the said river” for the benefit of the British Nation.

The Ogeechee River flows some 230 miles from near Crawfordsville to some 16 miles south of Savannah. Joseph Roberts built the Ogeechee River Mill, the only impediment (very short-lived) ever placed on the Ogeechee.

In addition, the Ogeechee is only one of only 26 rivers in the U.S. that is considered “untamed.”

The Ogeechee is also known as a “black water” river because of its high loads of sediment, and for its lower half has unusually high Ph levels, due to the inflow of spring waters from Magnolia Springs State Park.

Then, there is a second special Ogeechee: the indians. The Muskogean indians called them the “Hughchee” or “Hogeechee” tribe. They really were the “Uchean” tribe, which was part of the Lower Creek Confederacy.

The Uchees (or Yuchis) soon had made up their own name for the white men who had invaded their territory: “e-cun-naux-nux-ulgee,” which roughly translated to “people greedily grasping after the lands of the redmen.”

There is a third special use of the word Ogeechee: Tupelo trees and limes. Along the banks of the Ogeechee River, tribes collected the fruit of the White Ogeechee Tupelo Tree (Nyssa Ogeche). These “Ogeechee Lime” trees can grow 30-40 feet tall, have edible red fruits, and are found nowhere else.

Bees that collect this nectar produce a very special honey. Because of its high fructose content, it will not granulate; because of its contents doctors can prescribe it for diabetic patients; and it has an unusual pear-like aroma.

There is a fourth special use of the word “Ogeechee,” the ferry. Two important Georgia Revolutionary War battles took place at site long-called the “Ogeechee Ferry.” Known at first to local residents as the Indian Old Fields, the site of the Ogeechee ferry crossing is known as Kings Ferry Bridge.

The first of these two battles took place when Colonel Jackson’s Colonial forces engaged the British troops of Lt. Col. George Campbell on Nov.  2, 1781. In the second battle American, Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s men fought Royal irregulars under the command of Thomas Brown.

There is a fifth special use of the word “Ogeechee,” a railroad depot. It was the site of a railroad stop on the Central of Georgia Railroad (listed on maps as either #6 or #6.5). The Central had built depots every 10 miles out from Savannah, which meant that Ogeechee Depot was actually 61.5 miles from Savannah.

The top speed of the Central’s trains at first was only 16 miles per hour, would meant that it would take all day to get from Savannah to Ogeechee, what with making a stop at each location.

Curiously, in 1935, two trains collided head-on at Ogeechee Depot. Some said the trains were going as fast as 70 miles per hour. The engineers and firemen on both trains were killed.

The Ogeechee Depot had its own special histories. The most famous incident happened on Dec. 4, 1864 when Union General Sherman and his 17th Corps passed through Ogeechee, tearing up the tracks and burning down the depot. For a long time, the Ogeechee Depot served as the main transfer point for all Statesboro mail.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

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