STILSON — This southeastern Bulloch County community might be small, but some of its people — including two pioneering women — have left their mark in Bulloch County and beyond.
The Bulloch County Historical Society celebrated Stilson by dedicating a historical marker — the 17th it has erected in the past three years — with a gathering of the community's notable people and their friends and relatives Thursday afternoon on Georgia Highway 119.
Society President Joe McGlamery introduced three notables: B. Avant Edenfield, a senior judge in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia; Bette Beasley Anderson, the first woman to serve as undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury, appointed by President Jimmy Carter; and Faye Sanders Martin, the first woman appointed to the Georgia Superior Court bench and the state's first woman chief superior court judge.
"We thank all three of you for your impressive records of service," said McGlamery, who is also the president of the Statesboro Herald. "Thank you for bringing such honor to the community that nurtured you and, in a very real way, to all of us who call Bulloch County our home."
According to the double-sided marker, Stilson was one of several stations along the Savannah & Statesboro Railway — completed in 1899 — that grew into villages.
"One of these was Stilson, named for Stilson Hutchinson who was instrumental in getting the Railway to pass through this area," the marker reads. "... In 1900, Stilson had a population of 138. Businesses in 1909 traded in naval stores, melons, cotton, timber and turpentine. The town was surrounded by prosperous farmers."
The marker names several other notable residents — William Strickland, the first postmaster (1899); Edith Hutchinson, the last postmaster (1966); Dr. Frank Forest Floyd, first doctor; Dr. Dan L. Deal, who began his practice in 1910 after Floyd moved to Statesboro; Professor Ingraham, the first teacher at Stilson Academy, which opened in 1901; S.W. DuBose, who established a Presbyterian mission in the community; and Anderson, Edenfield and Martin.
Many of the memories shared Thursday centered around school.
"Approximately three quarters of a century ago, I entered school over there. And until a few years ago, I recalled exactly the seat that I sat in. And one of the pretty little girls across from me, whom I pulled her pigtails, is that retired Superior Court judge," Edenfield said of Martin, drawing laughter from the gathering.
In 1952, Stilson High School was the toast of Georgia scholastic athletics, with both the boys and girls basketball teams winning state championships.
But by then, the community was in decline with the demise of the S&S Railway and the growth of nearly U.S. Highway 80.
"By 1955, Stilson High had closed and students were sent to Southeast Bulloch High School in nearby Brooklet, Ga.," the marker reads.
The state championships underscored that basketball was "the main activity" at Stilson High, Martin said, but the school and community were so much more than that.
"The community of Stilson — and its school and its people — have had a positive influence in my life. And as I think about those people, many names come to mind," she said. "I'm going to read some of these, the people of this community, the salt of this community."
She recited surnames familiar to people throughout Bulloch County. Here is a sampling: Akins, Beasley, Brannen, Burnsed, Davis, Driggers, Edenfield, McElveen, Upchurch and Woodard.
"They made great contributions to this area and to the morals of its people," Martin said, "and to good names, and to the well-being of the citizens of this community."
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.