Georgia County Government - January 2009 - (Page 33)

Georgia’s Grand Old Courthouses The McIntosh County Courthouse at Darien Built in 1876, burned in 1931. By Wilber W. Caldwell I n the first decades of the 19th century, the little seaport of Darien at the mouth of the Altamaha River in McIntosh County thrived on cargoes of rice, indigo and sugar, and on the bounty of cotton and By 1849, when the insightful traveler, George White, wrote of Darien in his Statistics of the State of Georgia, he described a village of about 600 residents containing a courthouse, a jail, one hotel and 12 stores. White’s comments cut to the quick of the situation: “formerly a place of much business construction of the Central Railroad has taken much of the produce which used to come to Darien.” But just as White gleaned the cause of Darien’s decline, he also foresaw the town’s coming salvation: “Situated on a river which furnishes inexhaustible supplies of the best pine lumber in the world, and accessible to ships of heavy burthen, nothing is wanted but perseverance to insure prosperity to the town. Immense quantities of timber and turpentine are now brought to Darien.” White’s insights are penetrating, and the great timber boom of the last third of the 19th century is legendary in Darien. The port lay at the end of a romanticized journey for countless timber rafts-men, who each year floated down the Ohoopee, the Oconee, and the Ocmulgee to jam the channel at Darien with the bounty of Georgia’s virgin pine forests. During the 1880s and ’90s Darien received as many as 85 great log rafts a day, each containing timber flowing down the Oconee and the Ocmulgee Rivers from the interior of the state. A bustling Darien was the site of one of the first steam-powered saw mills in the United States, and in testament to the port’s economic importance, the Bank of Darien was established in 1818. With branches at Savannah, Augusta, Milledgeville, Dahlonega and Auraria, this institution was among the first to bring financial sophistication to an independent plantation economy, pressing its influence to the very edges of the frontier. But in the late 1830s, the construction of The Central Railroad from Savannah to Macon put an end to Darien’s prominence as a cotton market, and as the new rails were laid, the Bank of Darien failed in the depression following the Panic of 1837. as many as 100,000 board feet of lumber. In 1879, Sholes’ “Gazetteer of Georgia” listed Darien’s population at 2,000, and called the city “one of the principle timber markets in the world.” White’s prediction had proved correct, save one detail: Georgia’s great pine forests were not “inexhaustible.” After the turn of the century, the timber boom at Darien disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. By 1900, most of eastern Georgia’s virgin pine was gone. The big gang saws were growing silent, and Georgia’s forests were fi lled with smaller portable saw mills and tram railroads. Timber raft ing on the Altamaha was disappearing, and an ever-increasing network of railroads was replacing river raft ing as the primary transportation modem in the lumber industry. Darien was again in decline. The great forests were disappearing, timber buyers and portable mills moved upstream and were beginning to ship by rail to better harbors at Brunswick and Savannah, and timber prices were falling fast as the Panic of 1907 set in. In the midst of all of this, Darien built a railroad of her own. But it proved too little, too late. Despite the usual wave of railroad-imported euphoria in Darien, the tiny new railroad was powerless against the forces that propelled Darien’s decline. The new rails could not replace Georgia’s dwindling stands of virgin pine. Competition from nearby Brunswick was growing, and Darien’s location on her mighty river was being rendered meaningless by so many railroads. COURTHOUSES continued on page 34 JANUARY 2009 33

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - January 2009

Georgia County Government - January 2009
President’s Message
County Matters
Forward-Thinking Bulloch County Leaders Put Progress on the Front Burner
Robert Farris: Champion for Georgia’s Forests
ACCG, BCBS of Georgia Work Together to Improve County Employee Health
Georgia’s Grand Old Courthouses: McIntosh County
Extension News: Cooperative Extension Generates ROI
Research Corner: How Does Your County Rate?
County Parade
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - January 2009