Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.
The town of Rocky Ford is in Screven County, which was constituted from parts of Burke and Effingham Counties in 1793. Screven was named for Gen. James Screven of the Revolutionary War’s “Battle of the Rice Boats.”
The home of Benjamin Lanier, located on the banks of the Ogeechee River in Rocky Ford was selected as Screven County’s first county seat in 1793. The county seat is currently in the town of Sylvania.
Rocky Ford served as the first governmental seat of Screven County for more than a century. The "Court" was held in Benjamin Lanier's house, which sat on the banks of the Ogeechee River.
Early histories indicate passive Native American tribes would pass over the "natural crossing, or ford, in order to get to the other side of the often quite formidable Great Ogeechee River.
Local traditions required that newly married couples travel to the Ogeechee River, where the men showed their physical prowess by crossing the strong current and slippery, ever-shifting, “Rocky Ford.”
The city of Rocky Ford was also called Rockyford. Angela Lee-Ford’s book, “Screven and Jenkins Counties,” published in 1999, revealed how life was in early Rocky Ford.
Rocky Ford sported two hotels: the first, the Sam Hotel, owned by Sam Kea, was run by an African-American gentleman in the rooms upstairs above the general merchandise store below.
The other, the two-story Barber Hotel, was run by members of the B.B. Barber family, which had 16 rooms, a second-story lobby, and its own barbershop. It was located near the Central of Georgia Railroad depot.
Rocky Ford, or Station 6 1/2, as the train passed by Rocky Ford, stopping instead at the larger community of Scarboro. The first railroad agent, W.A. Edenfield Sr., arrived in 1869.
George Heard built two bridges across the Ogeechee River at this spot. The first was built in 1886 in order to bring lumber from his sawmill in Bellwood.
One was run as a public toll bridge, and was used by residents, farmers, and businessmen. Heard quickly bought up all the land and built a large saw mill in Rocky Ford.
The Foys built their own "company town," with a saw mill, a planing mill, a sash-and door factory, and a wooden shingles plant. Foy built some 30 company houses, and a hotel for customers and company executives.
Foy sold ready-to-build houses, which they shipped in pieces to their destinations, accompanied by crews of company carpenters and builders., who would put them together once they’d arrived.
George Heard began buying up lots in town and building homes for sale. Heard and his son Rollo had already built their Rocky Ford Brick Yard, which quickly became one of the largest brickmakers in the South.
The heyday of the brickyard occurred during a ten-year period, 1908-1918 when under owner B.W. Miller manufactured 2½ million bricks per year. C.L. Alderman served as the company’s agent in Statesboro.
He continued “We take pleasure in announcing...we are now manufacturing the finest Brick...in this part of Georgia at prices that defy competition...When in need of any Brick we...guarantee your satisfaction.”
The brickyard was sold to W.J. Chapman in 1908, who in turn sold it to Arthur Burke in 1918. The town’s largest business for a while was the Ogeechee River Stave and Head Company.
Austrian Bartol Krulic’s company made barrel staves, barrel headings and finished barrels, shipped them overseas to French winemakers. The Standard Oil Co. at Bayonne, New Jersey became their biggest customer.
One of Rocky Ford’s claims-to-fame is the variety of cantaloupe named after it: “Rocky Ford,” which for the longest time was the primary variety grown in Georgia.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.