Note: The following is the 11th in a series of columns that will describe towns and communities, past and present, that were settled after Bulloch County was first settled. Some have since been cut into other counties.
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 there, they renamed the community Red Branch after local resident Jimerson "Jimps" Kennedy suggested the town needed a more 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 were promoting the building of a school to serve the area's children.
When their new school was established in Red Branch, Miss Ida Middleton convinced local residents in 1879 to rename the town Excelsior after H.W. Longfellow’s poem of the same name. Rev. Washington L. Geiger became the first school superintendent of the new Excelsior Academy.
Geiger had 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 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 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 falling inside its boundaries.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.