In the late summer of 1864, Gen. William T. Sherman - after he burnt down Atlanta - began his famous "March to the Sea" to Savannah. Sherman's troops lived off the land and destroyed much of the property along the way.
The mayor and some prominent men of Savannah, however, made arrangements to meet Sherman to give the city to him before he did any harm. In turn, Sherman gave Savannah to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas present.
The war ended in April 1865, with the South's economy destroyed. The only thing the "Old Confederacy" had left for reconstruction was millions of acres of longleaf pine timber for lumber.
During the late 1870s, John H. Perkins of Hagan, a prominent farmer who was expanding into the lumber business, built a narrow-gauge railroad to his lumber mills. He operated the railroads for several years. In the mid-1880s, Perkins changed the narrow-gauge rails to regulation width and formed the Register & Glennville (R&G) Railroad.
It operated along the areas of sawmills, cotton gins and fast-growing naval stores. The R&G Railroad proved to be very useful in transporting Sea Island cotton and naval stores products, causing fast growth for the communities it served.
In 1891, Manassas Foy married Maxie Olliff, daughter of W.W. Olliff, who was one of the owners of the R&G. Shortly after their marriage, Foy built a cotton gin and lumber mill complex, powered by steam. It was located by the R&G Railroad, which he had bought into. The train also had a passenger car that proved to be very popular at that time.
The R&G Railroad ceased operations in the late fall of 1915, and the rails on its tracks were removed in late spring to late fall 1916 - 100 years ago.
The section of rails from Register to Undine was removed by a crew of workers made up of Croatan Indians. The Croatans worked on the section of rails from Register to Undine at the same time they worked chipping pine trees for naval stores. They were from the Lumbee tribe in Lumberton, North Carolina, who were brought to the Bulloch County area in 1870 to show the local population how to grow tobacco and to chip pine trees to produce naval stores products.
At the time, Foy was one of the largest producers of naval stores in Georgia. In fact, he owned about 575,000 cups used to catch the gum as it came out of the chipped trees. The gum was later taken to a still in Adabelle, where it was distilled into turpentine.
Croatans worked for the Adabelle Trading Company, which was owned by Foy. They settled on Foy's land and built a thriving community that included a general store, a post office, a cotton gin and a school that doubled as a church. But by 1920, the turpentine industry was almost gone from Georgia, so the Croatans returned to North Carolina.
They left behind a cemetery on the property to which descendants return each year for a celebration and cleanup. A marker placed by the Bulloch County Historical Society and the Georgia Historical Society on the corner of Highway 301 South and Adabelle Road describes the significance of the Croatan community.
Old watering hole
In the summer of 1934, my father carried my brother and me on one of our first trips to a favorite community swimming hole. It was located a few hundred yards just below the old wooden Kennedy Bridge on the Canoochee River. As we traveled along the public road, we passed by a short railroad trestle built over a deep water hole.
Our many questions were answered as Daddy told us the story of why the trestle was built. He told me many stories about the railroad, including one about the old depot at Adabelle. A few days later, I persuaded him to drive over and show me the old building, and we went inside to look around.
Lester Bowen had served as clerk of the depot from 1910-15. It had to be torn down in 1958 because of the widening and paving of the road in Adabelle.
During the summer of 1935, I turned 5. My daddy started carrying me and my brother over the oak ridges and across the railroad bed to get to his favorite fishing hole. As we crossed the railroad bed, I could see the half-rotten crossties that remained lying in perfect rows, left and right as far as I could see.
My father bought half-interest in the cotton gin and handled the operations from 1935 through 1937. It was located on the site of the old R&G Railroad, and I can still hear the old steam whistle blowing every day at noon during the fall.
For Christmas in 1938, I got a white pony and named him Silver. I kept him for several years, and quite often, especially during the summer, I would ride Silver along the railroad bed to check out the crossties. I even collected a few scattered rail spikes and rail connectors as keepsakes.
World War II
Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941, and tremendous damage was done to our Navy. Immediately, most everything went into the war effort, and all the farmers were somewhat on their own as to what they could plant. I was a young boy - 11-14 years old - and I was on the production line, helping my dad on the farm, especially in the summertime.
Camp Stewart opened in 1940, and even during the war, the old R&G Railroad bed was used.
In late 1942, the U.S. Army at Camp Stewart was about ready to send troops to train for airplane searchlight duties. Training was conducted at many satellite campsites around the nation.
Known as airplane spotters after training, they were stationed 3-6 miles apart. Adabelle's old train depot was used as a spotter station.
Local men and women from the surrounding farming community helped operate the station between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. Women mostly worked during the afternoon and early evening, and men mostly covered the night shifts.
The spotters notified Camp Stewart of any planes that would be flying overhead. Each reports included details about the individual aircraft, along with coordinates and the direction in which the plane was flying. In turn, Camp Stewart would notify the searchlight troops, who then coordinated the information using cable telephone networks provided by the Army for each searchlight site.
I would ride Silver more than a mile to the old Adebelle depot as often as possible each week. Occasionally, I took food packages to spotters that included cakes, pies and other items prepared by my mother. Mostly, I visited for the excitement.
In early 1944, the training for spotter stations and searchlight crews was phased out as the war started heading to our victory.
Some of the Army utility trucks used the old R&G Railroad bed as their passageway to move the camps from place to place. About every three months, a new group of trainees would be brought in.
I often rode Silver to the camps to look around. One time, a soldier asked to ride Silver - and he did, for a very short time, until Silver threw him and returned home to the barn. It was quite a thrill to a young boy as they drove me in a utility truck along the old railroad bed to a public dirt road to my home.
Part of the above information was told to me when I was a small child by "Uncle Bob" Robbins, who was a handyman for Foy and was involved in Adabelle and with the Foy family all of his life.
This year marks 100 years since the Register & Glennville Railroad ceased operations and the rails were removed. At the present time, I know one place in the swamp where several crossties, protected by nature, remain in very good condition.
The only thing left as a reminder of "Old Adabelle" is the huge white oak tree known as "The Manassas Foy Oak." Just as I finished this story, I drove 2 miles to see Granddaddy Foy's namesake tree. It's still standing strong and tall, proudly overlooking Old Adabelle, as God intended.