The most recent freestanding historical marker installed by the Bulloch County Historical Society enshrines memories of the vanished village of Adabelle, headquarters of the early 20th century Adabelle Trading Company and former site of a landmark large wooden house that served as a hotel.
The marker’s text also links the community in southern Bulloch County to the Williams, Bowen, Kennedy, Franklin and Olliff families, among others, and through an entrepreneur named Washington Manassas “W.M.” Foy and his heirs to the little town of Manassas in Tattnall County and a mansion on Statesboro’s Savannah Avenue.
Members of the Historical Society met some of Foy’s descendants for the marker’s unveiling Saturday, Nov. 13. It can be found along Adabelle Road, of course, a few miles west from the old Bowen Store on U.S. Highway 301, and also appropriately near some pine trees, since turpentine, rosin and timber were Adabelle’s core economic resources.
This is the 27th in a series of markers placed by the Historical Society at locations across Bulloch County in a program funded by the Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Foundation. Like other markers in the series, it is put there to last. Made to order by Sewah Studios in Ohio of cast aluminum, with gold lettering and a deep brown, electrostatically applied powder-coat finish, a marker sign this size weighs 100 pounds, said Virginia Anne Franklin Waters, the Bulloch County Historical Society’s executive director.
“The hardest part of planning the sign is condensing the information,” she said. “We use both the front and the back, and that’s 20 lines on the front, 20 lines on the back. That’s all you have, and each line can only hold 62 characters. Punctuation, spaces, all those count as characters.”
But this newest antique-looking marker packs in facts. It tells us that Adabelle was established in 1900 and served as a stop on the Register & Glennville Railway, which connected with two major railroads serving the region, the Central of Georgia Railway and the Seaboard Air Line. A post office also existed there, at least until 1907. The village, which in 1908 had 50 residents, the marker states, was named for Ada Belle Williams, daughter of J.W. Williams.
In 1902 J.W. Williams and W. Manassas Foy incorporated the Adabelle Trading Company and purchased the Carr Brothers Turpentine Distillery. The marker states that “at its prime” Adabelle Trading Co. owned over 14,000 acres of land and produced 1,800 barrels of turpentine a year.
Pine resin collection, turpentine production and associated activities were known as the “naval stores” industry since these and derived materials had been used in maintaining wooden ships. Some other historical markers placed by the Bulloch County Historical Society in previous years, including the “Stilson, Georgia” and Savannah & Statesboro Railway markers, also mention turpentine and naval stores as important in the region’s early 20th century economy. Besides jobs for men dipping resin or operating the still, the industry also created work for wheelwrights, wagon makers and coopers, who made barrels, notes the Adabelle marker.
Williams, Foy and their heirs and employees also farmed corn and Sea Island cotton, the marker notes. The importance of Sea Island cotton in the area’s economy is recognized on the Historical Society’s older “Statesboro, Georgia” marker downtown.
J.W. Williams built the boardinghouse, or hotel, at Adabelle. But it was operated by Alice Mae Franklin, daughter of Hiram Franklin and wife of Charles K. Spiers, who worked as a “woods-rider” for Foy, the new marker states.
Foy had a lumber business in Tattnall County, where Manassas, still a town of about 80 people, was named for him.
W.M. Foy also built an eighteen-room house on Savannah Avenue in Statesboro in 1901. According Foy’s great-granddaughter Fay Foy Franklin, that house burned and was replaced by the large brick home that stands well back from Savannah Avenue amid heavily landscaped grounds at the intersection with Donehoo Street. Now known as the Donehoo-Brannen-NeSmith Mansion, it has 8,417 square feet of floor space, according to a local real estate agency’s current listing, with an asking price of $1.2 million.
But it wasn’t built by W.M. Foy, who died in 1903, of typhoid fever, according to his great-granddaughter and now, the Adabelle Marker. His widow, originally Maxie Olliff, later married Dr. J.E. Donehoo. In 1909, J.W. Williams sold his interest in the Adabelle Trading Company to Foy’s heirs and to Donehoo.
It was Dr. Donehoo, then married to her great-grandmother, who had the Savannah Avenue mansion built, Franklin said. She also knows some things about the Adabelle boardinghouse, which stood vacant for years before it was destroyed by fire about a quarter century ago. The marker is on the edge of the boarding house site.
“Adabelle was the railroad line, so it was a popular place for people to shop and spend the night, and there was a commissary there,” Franklin said.
A Bulloch County Historical Society member, Franklin helped plan for the marker. In preparing the text, the society also drew facts from “Adabelle: A Place, A Time, and A People,” a book compiled by the late Dorothy “Dottie” Durrence Simmons.
W.M. Foy’s sons, Inman and J.P., continued in the turpentine business at Adabelle for several years after their father died.
But “the Adabelle Trading Company dissolved about 1920, and the village gradually disappeared,” the marker states. Adabelle existed as such for about half a century.
The new marker’s text also notes that “Croatan Indians” from the tribe now known as the Lumbee, migrated to the Adabelle area from North Carolina in the 1870s to work in the turpentine industry. The statewide Georgia Historical Society placed a “Croatan Indian Community” marker in this area, along U.S. 301, in 2004.
Old Manassas Foy Road intersects with Adabelle Road, and Croatan Indian Cemetery Road is nearby.